Friday, April 2, 2010
Finding more effective ways to handle stress
It is unfortunate that many of us in society today become overwhelmed with the perceived stresses of everyday life.
However it is not a surprise, the list seems to go on and on. The bills just seems to keep coming, the car seems to keep breaking down, the fact that the vacation keeps getting put on hold because our jobs will not allow me the time off that I need. If this scenario sounds all too familiar I want you to know that you are not alone. I feel it is safe to say that many are burning the candle at both ends and all too often we are letting the best moments of life pass us right by.
When it really comes right down to it, it may seem the escaping stress is impossible. For a lot of us the tasks seems so overwhelming that there is no way to relax. Or if we do take time to “relax” often times we find ourselves turning to things like drugs and alcohol to help us slow down. Many times people will come home from work and have a drink or smoke a joint to “take the edge off.”
The problem with using drugs and alcohol as a means to escape the stress is we never address the underlying reason we are facing the stress and the energy inside us continues to build. To add fuel to the fire if we are up all night drinking the amount of alcohol we need to get the perceived relaxation increases, which in turn costs us more money, and less quality sleep and before we know it we are caught up in a roller coaster of stimulants and downers. The cycle usually consist of coffee first thing in the morning to get us going and a drink first thing when we get home to calm down. Sound familiar? Not to mention a diet filled with quick and easy meals from the closest burger joint that have no nutritional value and are loaded with preservatives and additives. Throw in a lack of exercise and it is a miracle our bodies continue to function as well as they do.
Sugar is another big contributor to stress. Sugar raises the blood pressure, puts added stress on the digestive system and interferes with firing of neurons in the brain. The nervous system becomes congested so to speak and your “fight or flight” response kicks into over drive. Now your brain has trouble make rationale choices and the perception of “too much to do” becomes a far greater task to deal with.
Furthermore Americans are hooked on prescription drugs to try to deal with their stress, anxiety, and or depression. Using a medication is the same as using alcohol, it may offer relief from the problem but does little to address the underlying issue of why you are anxious, depressed or stressed in the first place.
The negative effects that stress can have on one’s body and mind is undeniable. When someone is stressed the most obvious side effects are an elevated blood pressure and increased heart rate. Stress has been linked to everything from migraines to heart attacks. Not to mention obesity, stress has been proven to increase cortisol production in the body. Cortisol makes it almost impossible to lose weight, let alone burn fat.
There is a famous quote that says, “99% of all ill-health is stress induced.”
So what is one to do?
In my opinion the first and best option is finding a way to release the built up energy inside of you. Studies have linked the benefits of exercise and the reduction of stress in numerous cases. Starting an exercise regiment does not have to be difficult and/or elaborate. Simply going for a walk for 30-60 minutes a day outside can be a great way to get your body moving and relieving stress. More rigorous exercise has the added potential of increased health benefits as well as releasing more endorphins which counteracts the stress one is facing.
Cleaning up your diet will serve of great benefit to your body as well as your mind. Food can be fun and eating candy once in a while is just fine. But plain and simple sugar does not belong in your body and the better you do to eat a diet filled with fresh organic produce and lean protein sources the sooner you will begin to feel better. A good diet is not hard to follow it just takes practice and a little extra preparation time.
The next option I recommend is writing. Not all of us are meant to be great writers or poets but a piece of paper and a pen can be a great source of expression. Write about anything that makes you feel better. I would not suggest writing about the circumstances that cause you discomfort as that will only continue to add to the energy you are trying to get rid of. Instead daydream for a while, write about the job you wish you had, the money you want to be making, or the mate you wish you would meet. When you switch your focus away from the unwanted circumstances and do your best to focus on the wanted you will notice your feelings and thoughts will tend to shift to a more positive place.
So often we as a society can have so many good things going on and we can get hung up on the one thing that is going wrong. This negative thinking is serving us no benefit what so ever. A great exercise I was suggested about a year ago by Esther and Jerry Hicks (abrahahm-hicks.com) was to go on a rampage of appreciation. Look around at your current setting and try to write or think about all of the great things in your life.
If you claim there is more to feel bad about than good about, focus on the one thing there is that’s going well and milk it for all it is worth. How does it taste, smell, or feel. How does your heart feel as you are thinking about it. I personally discovered that at first it is not easy to try to switch your thoughts from one of negative to one of positive but with practice it can and does become quite easy.
My final suggestion to learning to deal with everyday stress is learn to meditate. There is not enough room on this paper to express to you the appreciation I have found in my life once I calmed my mind and went within. There have been instances when I would feel so anxious and once I sat back took a few deep breaths and just tried to relax that many of my stresses would melt away.
Meditation does not have to be complicated and it will work for everyone in different ways. I believe that there are several ways to meditate. Often I will just sit in my car by the ocean, close my eyes, listen to the waves and breathe as deeply as I can. Other times I will use one of the many guided meditations I have on CD, or I will simply focus on a few words. I like the meditation where I breath in and mentally say “ease” and on the out breath I will say “flow”, I will do that for about five minutes and generally the anxiety I was dealing with has been relieved. Going out in nature and listening to the sounds of mother earth and just trying to recognize the beauty and feel the sun is a great way to meditate.
Meditation has been proven to have substantial positive benefits on one’s health, the most obvious being is stress relief. I believe that is because when you go within your soul talks to you and assures you that everything is ok. I like the analogy meditation is like receiving a hug from God.
Meditation can be a spiritual endeavor but it can also be an everyday practice to simply allow a person to feel more in control of his/her life. I believe the world could immensely benefit from all of us embracing meditation.
It is inevitable that during our life we are going to encounter circumstances/situations that cause us to be stressed. By taking a breath and stepping back and looking at the bigger picture and doing our best to honor our feelings many of our perceived stresses would become less important. By doing our best to look at the best of every situation we can begin to have a new outlook on life. By realizing that when something we do not want happens to us it causes within us a desire for an improved situation. If you could simply hold onto that feeling of hope for the solution, imagine the solution, get eager about the solution you may find your feelings have improved.
Life was created for us to have fun, to experience anything and everything that we ever wanted. When we get caught up on the small things that we do not have any control over we detach ourselves from the goodness that is us. Therefore, go forth and find things to appreciate. Do your best to treat others the way you wish to be treated and most of all remember that you are always loved.