Did you know you are no different than a frog? Well, that’s not completely true …I’ll get to that in bit, but let’s talk about stress for a moment.
Stress is good for us when it is used as a tool and not as an ongoing force driving our life!
Unfortunately, in our society we wear the stress and busyness of our daily lives like a badge of honor. As a result, we are in a constant state of elevated stress and serious damage is being done to our bodies and minds! Chronic stress impacts every main system in our bodies- cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous, immune, muscular, and digestive.
Even though chronic stress is common it isn’t normal.
I know because I am no exception,I lived in a constant state of elevated stress.Even though, I ate healthy, I was at the gym at least three times a week, played volleyball, golfed and skied; I had a lack of appetite, I couldn’t sleep, I was always tired, couldn’t concentrate, I was easily irritable. Quite frankly, I wasn’t fun to be around.
To cope with what I thought were normal facts of life and the normal aging process, I was on a number of prescribed medications and all I was told by my doctor was that I have to reduce my stress levels. But how?
How could I reduce my stress level?
Despite my best efforts my life was spinning out of control…
And then I found a new way, a new perspective and slowly started recovering.
While applying new tools and strategies, I weaned myself off of prescribed medications and I discovered a whole new level of how I could be healthy. I also learned the difference between chronic and acute stress.
What’s bad about chronic stress!
As I was studying stress, and paying attention to my own approach to it, I realized that we are like frogs being slowly consumed by the slow but steady effects of chronic stress.
Chronic stress has an adaptive effect, we learn to ignore the minor discomfort and eventually accept it as the norm.Our body adjusts until it depletes its essential nutrients and fails to make proper hormones and enzymes. Even though, our nervous system is in a state of overstimulation and we feel as if we are constantly in a state of fight or flight, we accept this as a norm, just like a frog thrown in a pot of boiling water.
The rest of my frog story.
Did you know that if you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, he will jump out? But if you place a frog into a pot of cold water and turn the heat on low, he will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, and before long, with a smile on his face, he will unresistingly allow himself to be boiled to death.
I was no different than that frog!
Although, I knew that stress could be the culprit behind my problems, I didn’t know that to change it, I had to confront a very powerful program in my brain, the habitual response. In the process, I learned that my reaction to stress is a hard-wired, highly evolved, complex physiological process that has helped humans survive for millennia.
How I jumped out of the pot of boiling water
Fortunately, once I learned how my mind operates and how I became triggered by various stressors that put me in a constant state of overstimulation, I discovered how to quiet those reactions. I began to sooth my oversensitive nervous system and start reprograming my brain.
You can do it too…
One more caveat before I share with you how you can start…
It is often assumed that we should eliminate stress all together, but that’s flawed assumption.Healthy levels of stress are good and necessary, they help us with our creativity, productivity, boost our memory, improve confidence, foster resiliency and so much more.
I will share with you how you can begin, but before I do that I have to give you few crucial components you should always come back to and incorporate in your life as often as possible. Here they are:
- Beginby taking small, consistent steps – not everything can be accomplished quickly, our mind and body need time to adjust to changes.
- Pay attention to what’s happening in the present moment in the mind, in the body and in the environment– you will begin noticing how your body reacts to the environment and how your mind can be triggered by what’s happening in your body.
- Approach the process with the attitude of curiosity, kindness, patience and compassion towards yourself– we are often too hard on ourselves; it is time to soften the judgment.
And last, the most important ingredient…
- Have fun – life is too short to take everything too seriously.
And now to the juicy part of my blog
- In the morning don’t check any electronic devices until you have your first cup of tea or coffee.This will give you extra time to wake up and spend time just with yourself, instead of immediately getting inundated by the outside world.
- Notice who is with you during your morning shower, do you shower alone or with your boss, employees or kids?When we are engaged in mindless activities such as showering, our mind often wanders to what’s next or what has happened in the past. Taking a shower can be an opportunity to just be with the task at hand, the actual shower.
- Every time you are waiting at a red light, take three deep breaths and check the state of your emotions, your thoughts and sensations in your body. Deep breathing has a number of benefits, and yet we do not do it often enough. Associating red traffic lights with deep breathing helps us with getting rid of carbon dioxide from our lungs and gives us an opportunity to connect with ourselves.
- Choose a spot on your route to and from work where you make a conscious decision to stop work and begin the rest of your day. This will help you switch gears from work to your personal life and vice versa.
- End your day with a list of things you can be grateful for. Overtime, this proactive acknowledgment can increase well-being, health and happiness.
- Pay attention to what triggers you and before you act, take three mindful, deep breathes.During the first breath focus your attention on the breath alone, on the second breath, invite your body to relax, in the third breath, ask yourself the question “What’s important now?” see how that changes your perception. You can engage in this practice between meetings, before stepping into a challenging conversation, opening emails or any difficult task.
You can start by incorporating these exercises and I am sure they will make a difference in your life. If you want to dive deeper and start rewiring your brain, consider taking Stress Management And Resiliency Training- smartUBC https://healthytransitions.net