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Feeling Stressed? Give a Little

I visited my 3-year old niece. She read books to me like her dad does because she has a great memory. Also, she read books to me like her mom does, repeating the jest of the story because mom doesn’t read every word. Who’s got time for that? She showed me her new bedroom and all the many things that came with her new bedroom. You see, she has a new bedroom because she has a new sister, now 4-weeks old.

Somewhere in the middle of our many fascinating conversations about alligators, sisters, squishy bugs and the color purple, she gave me a penny. It was a sincere gift from her to me. Her very own penny out of her piggy bank.

Adjusting to a new baby has been more stressful on her sweet little heart than most would expect. Two weeks before baby sister arrived, mommy became very uncomfortable which created some real anxiety for this precious three year old. Then inviting a needy baby sister into the home turned out to be more than she bargained for. And yet, in the middle of her stress, anxiety, uncertainty and confusion, she gave. She gave me a penny from her very own piggy bank.

I’ve put the penny on my desk to remind me to be generous and giving even when I don’t feel like it, even when I’m confused, even when I’m stressed, even when I’m anxious. It turns out my little niece is on to something. There is something about giving in the middle of your own angst that brings joy and health.

Studies show that any act of altruism — a selfless act for others — is connected to positive physical and mental effects. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this includes lower blood pressure, increased self-esteem, less incidence of depression, lower stress levels, and even greater happiness. In a Johns Hopkins study, researchers found that people who provided social support to others had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t.

It never dawned on any of us to have a three year old give so that she could feel better, more adjusted, less stressed but she did it anyway. If you’re feeling a little tension, strain, worry, maybe it’s time to give a little.

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