Breaking Bread

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April 16 is National Stress Awareness Day. I recently read that more people are taking more sleeping pills because they are feeling more stress about the global economy. Yikes. That line alone is scary and stressful.

I have often—very often over the past year or so—quipped, “All I want is a simple life!” A simple life, to me, is one that is greatly stress-reduced. We may never get to stress-free, but there are certainly ways of handling increased stress loads with a greater sense of calm and control.

Well, believe it or not, one of the ways to reduce daily stress is to sit down to a meal with friends and family. It gives us a chance to review our days, air any worries and just maybe solve a problem or two with input from others.

Sitting down to a meal slows everything down. It forces us to focus. In our house, it is a requirement—just as it is if we go out for a restaurant meal—that all electronic devices be put away. Well away, that is, not just face-down in someone’s lap.

A study done by Syracuse University researchers showed that family mealtimes (among other family rituals) contributed to happier marriages, better health and a closer-knit family. All those positives are a powerful way to fight stress if you ask me.

Some of the best stress relievers—laughter, forgetting about your problems while you laugh or listen to someone else’s stories, aromatherapy (is there a better smell than onions and garlic cooking? That takes me right back to my own childhood)—happen over a meal.

Before you panic and feel stress about finding time to cook dinner every night just to achieve this goal, let me remind you—this is not about the cooking. It IS about sitting down over a meal—any meal—and spending time with each other. That meal might be pizza picked up on the way home or a meal of leftovers. At one point in our house, when three kids were doing six different activities, I decided weekend breakfasts were our family mealtimes because family dinners weren’t going to happen during that particular epoch.

If this seems daunting, experts recommend starting small. Pick the meals you think you can all be together for, figure out what you’ll be eating and aim for two meals a week. Then when you’ve managed that, go for three. No matter how often you do this, it’s a step in the right direction.

Want other stress relieving tips? Have a look at WebMD.

Posted on April 16, 2012

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