Deflate Your Balloon
Last week I talked about “Calming the hell down” and I shared that I would talk about strategies to manage stress so it doesn’t break you. I used to be stressed all the time and now I rarely find myself stressed at all. I know how to handle negative emotions, I know what they mean, and how to not let them fill up like a balloon until they pop. I have strategies for myself to deflate the balloon daily and get back to center. How about you? When I ask people about stress in their lives, they are quick to tell me how stressful their lives are. When I ask about what strategies they have in place to manage that stress? Crickets.
Last night, we put our 14-year French bulldog down. He was old, not doing well and it was time for him to earn his angel wings. It was sad, it was stressful to watch my family upset and crying. My sons grew up with this dog. However, I woke up this morning with a sense of peace and calm about it. I don’t think I could have done that 20 years ago. Life happens, stress happens, so are you prepared?
What are some of the things that you can do, that I do, to prepare for stress?
1. Exercise: Stress activates our “fight or flight” hormones. Yet, we don’t move. We don’t fight or flee (well, sometimes we fight but not in a good way). Exercise allows us to use the innate stress response healthfully. A lot of people tell me “I don’t like to exercise”. I tell them “I don’t like pooping either but I do it anyway so I don’t die”.
2. Breath: Stress causes us to "mouth breath" and we are designed to breathe through our noses. Start paying attention to how you breathe and start breathing through your nose. In through your nose and out through your mouth. This takes practice because we don't realize how much we "mouth breath". Try 10 cycles of 4-7-8 breathing. Inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds.
3. Meditate: I LOVE meditation. It helps me to peek in on my thoughts and see where my mind is. We all think too much and we need to stop, pay attention, and see if these thoughts are serving us or destroying us. Meditation allows us to slow down, pay attention, and change the direction of our minds, especially if our minds are moving too fast or in the wrong direction. I use the app "Calm" and it is important to do it at the same time every day so it becomes a habit. I wake up each morning, put on the coffee pot, and then go put in my headphones and do a daily meditation in the Calm app which usually takes about 10 minutes. This clears my mind to start the day off unencumbered by negative thoughts and emotions.
4. Prayer: Prayer is not meditation and meditation is not prayer. Prayer is speaking to God and meditation is listening to God. You can't pray and meditate at the same time just as you can't speak and listen at the same time. What do you want to ask God for? I realized a long time ago that if I leave my life up to me and me alone, and don't look to a higher power, then I'm sunk. I just can't do this thing called life without a higher power to guide me.
5. Supplement: I've found a few key supplements to help with stress for myself and my patients. Magnesium and B-Complex are important. Essential oils such as Lavender and Basil work well. Other important supplements for stress via good sleep are Melatonin, Theanine found in tea, and Valerian root.
6. Sleep: We need sleep to help the body heal. Quality sleep and quantity sleep downregulate the sympathetic "fight or flight" nervous system and allow us to turn off our conscious "stressful" minds. The bottom line is that sleep helps put us in a healing state and the first 4 letters in the word HEALth spell HEAL.
Remember that stress management is really life management. If you manage your life well, everyone, including your future self, will thank you for it.
Best in Health,
Dr. Dane Donohue is a Chiropractor in Newtown PA and has been serving his community for over 25 years. Wellness Solution Centers provides all the services you need for a healthy life.