When it comes to relaxation, most people would think we RVers have it down. After all, RVing is relaxing in itself, right? Getting out, exploring the country…it’s an idyllic lifestyle others would envy. Except when the jerk riding our bumper almost hits us. And then the oil light comes on, and by the way WHAT IS THAT ANNOYING RATTLE? And is that smell coming from the black tank? And is backing up your rig going to bring about a divorce? … RVing is great, but life is just, well, stressful, no matter what you do.
While there’s good stress and bad stress, it’s the bad form that’s hard on our bodies. Stress that is chronic or repeated can actually make us physically sick. It suppresses our immune systems, screws up our digestive tracts, and even impairs memory. Stress can also whittle away at the ends of chromosomes, which speeds up cellular aging. It can shave years off our lives.
So what’s a stressed out person to do?
It’s your response to your stress that’s most important when it comes to staying healthy. Your general disposition will dictate much of your response…if you’re a more resilient soul, you might see the stressor as a challenge, while a more anxious person will see it as a threat. Challenge stress is fine and is part of everyday life. Threat stress is the problem. The more we allow our life’s stresses to be threats, the more detrimental our stress is on our bodies. The good news is that if we alter our perceptions, most of the damage stress has caused us can be reversed. Training ourselves to raise our stress thresholds will improve our overall health and add to our longevity.
Ways To Manage Your Stress & Raise Your Stress Threshold
1. RETHINK BAD EXPERIENCES. So you’re RVing along, and say your exit is closed off with a big DETOUR sign on it. Don’t let it eat at you because you have to go an hour out of your way, instead think of it as an opportunity to explore new roads and see new things you wouldn’t have otherwise seen. Changing your perception is one of the best ways to manage stress.
2. IDENTIFY POSITIVE EXPERIENCES. You stepped out of the RV this morning and maybe you saw some elk grazing in the middle of the RV park. Tell someone about it or start a journal and write it down. This will help you focus on the positive experiences in your day instead of the negatives.
3. MEDITATE. Before you big tough guys pshaw this, think about this…meditation actually increases gray matter in regions of our brains that are associated with regulating our emotions, giving us a physiological edge over managing our stress. Get out of the RV, take your lawnchair down by the water’s edge, and give it a try.
4. BE NICE. Studies show that acts of kindness towards others can make you feel happier and calmer. Surprise your RV park neighbors with a yummy treat you just whipped up…like my favorite protein bites (hopefully I’m your neighbor!).
5. Get Your ZZZ’s. Skimping on your pillow time causes stress hormones to go berserk and is one of the greatest anxiety inducers. If you want to be well, then be well-rested.
6. MOVE! Exercise reduces stress levels and stimulates new brain cell growth. Sometimes when we feel stressed the very LAST thing we want to do is exercise, but that’s exactly what our bodies need. Exercise reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, clears our heads, and makes us better prepared to handle whatever obstacles lurk ahead. When you’re feeling upset, don’t sink in front of the TV and go numb to the world. Instead, lace up those athletic shoes, get out of the RV, and go take a walk. You’ll be surprised how much better you feel when you return.
Ultimately, the truth is that stress doesn’t come from your kids, your RV park neighbors, traffic jams, detours, or any other circumstances. Stress comes from you and your own thoughts about these circumstances. Part of living well is keeping your attitude and your reaction to stress in check.
So! Next time your RV neighbor takes up half your spot, don’t let your blood boil. Instead, offer it up to him if he needs it that bad. After all, your lawnchair awaits you down by the water’s edge.