Stress Matters

Do you ever wonder how your life became so busy?

Perhaps this is not the deal you signed up for when you were designing your life.

Human beings are the most stressed out life forms on the planet because we think too much and we run the endless treadmill of have to go…have to do…must accomplish. As we travel through life we learn to wear an infinite number of hats…parent, healer, psychologist, employee, spouse, employer, bank teller, magician, animal trainer, handyman, scientist, nutritionist, student, negotiator, teacher, lover, friend. Juggling and multitasking these hats can turn you into one big ball of stress.

Stress is an everyday fact of life. You can’t avoid it. The term “stressor” refers to a situation that produces disruptions in mind-body harmony. Stress refers to the symptoms resulting from the stressors. Not all stress is bad, and the good stress is not only desirable but essential to life.

Fight or Flight

You experience stress from three basic sources: your environment, your body and your thoughts. Most stressors have a psychological or emotional base. Your brain interprets changes in your environment and determines when to push the panic button. How you interpret, perceive, and label your present experience can relax you or cause stress. The fight-or-flight response, or the stress response, is a primitive set of symptoms that we inherited from our ancestors allowing us
to “buck up” to threats around us. We can fight the tiger or run from it as fast as we can.

Our modern day challenge is to distinguish the difference between the psychological threat of arriving late to work and the physical threat of a human predator. The stressors are dynamically different, but the stress response is the same. Secretion of adrenaline makes one feel more excitable and more alert, heart rate and respirations speed up, blood pressure goes up, and pupils dilate to name just a few of these responses.

Stress Kills

Fear, sadness, frustration, anger and other feelings associated with stressful experiences activate the nervous and endocrine systems, which produce changes in the immune system and total body physiology. Illnesses arise when the body is continually activated or over-stimulated. If negative emotions become a way of life, one can develop heart disease, high blood pressure, exhausted adrenal glands and an increased susceptibility to infectious disease and cancer over time. At least five heart attacks occur every year on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, making it one of the highest density heart attack zones in the U.S.

Coping With Stress

Sometimes emotional upsets are actually feelings left over from childhood fears, traumas, and experiences. When unhealed, they remain with us into adulthood, causing emotional distress over issues that competent “grown-up” people feel they should be able to handle. While many of these deep, unresolved emotional issues may require special counseling, there is much that we can do for ourselves to heal childhood wounds. An effective therapeutic modality that
clears emotional traumas in a fraction of the time compared to traditional psychotherapy is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). Consider learning more about this
technique if you have ever suffered from abuse or have experienced emotional trauma in your past…that would be everyone!

Americans tend to possess irrational beliefs about time. Chronic time urgency is not just a result of external pressure, but a product of inner forces-beliefs, drives, wants and needs.

How many of the following ideas feel familiar? “I must always be productive. I cannot delegate because no one can meet my standards. I won’t able to enjoy myself until I catch up with all I have to do. I must always get the most possible done in the least possible time. I usually hurry to get everything done. I cannot help but be upset when a task is incomplete. I have no control over constant overload in my life. I must be all things to all people.” If these phrases feel familiar, we have a problem, Houston!

The Relaxation Response

Once the physiology of the fight-or-flight response is understood, it becomes practical to focus on the Relaxation Response for the recovery process and disease prevention. Herbert Benson wrote The Relaxation Response in 1975, introducing Transcendental Meditation to the West. This is essentially the reversal of the fight-or-flight response. The bod relaxes, blood vessels dilate and everything slows down.

This process involves lying in a comfortable position, breathing deeply from the abdomen, focusing on a word or “mantra”, and keeping the mind passive. This simply means not forcing thoughts into logical patterns or forcing them out, but passively letting them float by your brain waves like clouds in your head. Americans think too much and have lost the ability to clear the endless mind chatter from their heads. It can be extremely stressful to process multiple thoughts
every second of every day.

Mind Clearing Meditation

Mind clearing exercises have become essential to the health maintenance of one’s mind, body and spirit. Find a comfortable position and breathe deeply by watching your abdomen rise and fall with each breath. Focus on your breath, completely filling your lungs and completely emptying them in a smooth and consistent cycle of breaths. Your respiratory rate should fall to approximately four breaths per minute. As you breathe, thoughts will dart into your mind and
you will feel compelled to process them. Simply refocus your attention back to your breathing and gently remove the thoughts from your mind. Do this over and over again for no longer than five minutes at a time, once day. As this exercise becomes more natural, you can increase the time to ten minutes per sitting and increase from there as it feels comfortable.

This is a great exercise to practice at your desk at work, in the morning when you open your eyes, or when you need to check out for a short break.

Mental note: Mind clearing is an advanced exercise and it may feel as if you are not performing it correctly at first. Keep practicing and things will feel better over time.

All you can do to hang onto your sanity is to live your life each day without sweating the small stuff and understand that you need not be perfect. Perfection is boring. Try not to work so hard at changing the behavior of others or trying to get people to be, look or act a different way. When stress starts to come over you, determine the worst thing that can happen if the situation does not meet your expected outcome. Understand that you are perfect just the way you are and you are loved no matter what. The earth is still going to revolve around the sun year after year and the people you love the most in life will help move you to your fullest potential whether you want to go there or not.

Quote of the day: “Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” ~Pooh’s Little Instruction Book,
inspired by A.A. Milne