I’m starting our 100% increase in wellness series with the emotional wellness category. Specifically on how to better deal with stress, because life is full of stressors and change – what we are aiming for – is yet another stressor. And because I know MY blood pressure is up …from stress as well as other reasons like heredity, diet, weight, yaddayaddayadda.
Stress is defined as emotional and physical effects caused by our responses to external events. I sort of disagree with that definition a bit – I guess they’d see ‘having cancer you don’t know about’ as not being a stress but having an doctor TELL you that you have cancer as external and thus a stress. Eh. WebMD goes into stress in detail so you might want to read their article at http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management-topic-overview. Because our minds and our bodies are connected in so many ways, stress affects not just our emotional state with worry, insomnia, and what have you but it also affects our body over time, lowering our resistance to infections, contributing to head aches, stomach problems, high blood pressure, etc. Not to mention (but I will) that not all of our responses to stress are healthy for us. Many people smoke more or drink more when under stress. Others are emotional eaters …. or non-eaters.
You can’t have a life free from stress. And since stress is part of growth and change, even positive growth and change, joining me on our 100% Increase in Wellness path is going to be a stress. Looks to me like we’d best learn to handle it as well as we can.
Fortunately, there are lots of areas here where we can take specific actions.
Some stresses in our lives are ‘optional’, and one simple step might be to avoid those stressors. There are some political pundits I simply do not watch/listen to, because I feel that they lie or ‘bend’ the truth, are hateful, etc. I do not watch them anymore. Someone else can monitor them instead of me.
If noise is stressing you in parts of your life – noise canceling headphones or regular ear plugs are wonderful things.
Still, other stresses are going to come through. What do we do about those?
If at all possible, solve whatever is causing the stress. That will have the most impact! But you and I both know that you can’t personally solve the problems in the economy, you can’t make the world safe for everyone, and the drivers on the road with you ARE nuts.
Exercise is one grand way to help you handle stress, especially if you work to focus on the exercise while doing it rather than on the external worries. And a physically tired body can usually overrule a running-on mind when it comes to sleeping at night. Dancing counts as exercise, by the way!
Meditation can be used to help the body and mind relax. There are meditative practices in all religions and many philosophies. Aryeh Kaplan’s book “Jewish Meditation” might be a great resource for Jews and most Christians, Catholics have resources on contemplation, atheists can pick any number of religion-free types (see Benson’s “The Relaxation Response”), etc. We non-Judeo Christians have lots of types of meditation our traditions use, as well as guided meditations and visualizations to choose from.
Oh, speaking of visualizations, once upon a time my car was stolen. It added to the stress I was under at that time. What I did was buy a white 7 day candle from the Hispanic foods part of the grocery store, set it up safely on my stove, and lit it. Whenever the anger, worry, stress of not having a car, etc. built up, I sent it to the candle flame to be consumed and transmuted into energy that I could make use of for positive things in my life. Like cleaning instead of pacing, for example.
Eating right when under stress will help your body deal with stress far better than eating too much, too little, or too much junk food. If you are stressed to the point it’s hard to eat, try mini-meals of a bit of protein and a bit of fruit and veggies. A half or quarter of a sandwich and a half or quarter of an orange. A small chunk of cheese and half an apple.
Yes, Chocolate has some effects that relieve stress. But it only takes a tiny bit of chocolate to have that effect, the rest is overkill.
Sleeping all day, or barely sleeping at all can be the result of stress. Work to get your full night’s sleep. You’ve heard the drill before. No evening caffeine. Stop watching stimulating TV a couple of hours before bed. Use your nightly rituals to help get you ready for bed.
Other things might choose to help you deal with stress – depending on the outside cause behind it – might be better time management, outsourcing some tasks you have been doing, etc.
Finally, there’s the BIGGIE – get professional counseling to help you deal with emotional stress. It might be just what some people need. Desensitizing therapies, for example, work particularly well with both phobias and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have a bias towards that and other cognitive-behavioral therapies.
Now – choose something and DO IT. That’s the key here. You’re only after a 11% increase in your level of relaxation. Which of these ideas, or some other idea, will get you that level of improvement?
I’m going off to meditate … but I’ll also hit up my husband or spawn for a back rub later.