Stress and the Battlefield called our Minds
In these CRAZY times, take a DEEP breath (through your nose) and RELAX.
There has never been a time in my life that I have seen more upheaval and stress in our world. It seems like the world "out there" is in chaos. Yet, there hasn't been a time that I can remember, in my almost 52 years, that I've felt more of a sense of happiness and peace. In other words, I feel happy and relaxed "in here" even though it seems the media created stress tells us that the world "out there" is on fire.
How can this be a reality for me? Well, a few reasons that a will talk about in just a bit. But first, I want to point out that It's not that I don't have stress in my life like all of us. It's not that I don't see what is happening in our country and other countries around the world. It's how I choose to respond to stress that matters. It's very interesting to speak to many people each day; patients, doctors, friends, family. Some people buy into the stress, buy into the media, feed their stress and anxiety with more negative news, more worrying about things that don't matter, things that will NEVER happen, or things they have absolutely NO control over. In my opinion, most stress, anxiety, and worry are "self-inflicted" wounds.
We know that chronic stress is a major contributor to chronic disease. How does stress create disease? Through the body's inability to control inflammation when under stress. According to a major study done by Carnegie Mellon and head researcher Sheldon Cohen, it was found that the immune system's ability to regulate inflammation predicts who will develop a cold, but more importantly, it provides an explanation of how stress can promote disease. When under stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control, and consequently, produce levels of inflammation that promote disease. Cohen also found that chronic psychological stress is associated with the body losing its ability to regulate the inflammatory response. Because inflammation plays a role in many diseases such as cardiovascular, asthma, and autoimmune disorders, this model suggests why stress may contribute to so many chronic diseases as well.
Physical symptoms of stress in descending order of frequency include fatigue; headache; upset stomach; muscle tension; change in appetite, teeth grinding; change in sex drive; and feeling dizzy. Ask yourself if you've experienced any of these symptoms in the past few weeks? Probably most of us have.
So how can we create a sense of calm in an ocean of turbulence? First, realize that it may not be that the sea is turbulent, it may be that someone is "rocking YOUR boat". I look at the major things in my life and think, "my health is good", "my marriage is good", "my children are good", "my business is good", "my family is good", "my God is good". The major things in my life are good so how can things be so bad? Now I realize that this may not be the case for some people. I realize that we must be prepared by not sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that bad things don't happen to good people. But, let's not create a battlefield in our mind by worrying about things that are NEVER going to happen or ultimately maybe a blessing in disguise. Discernment is critical here.
Also, I engage in activities that help my body manage the inevitable stress that comes into my life. The term I think of is "being centered" vs. "being on the edge". If you're "on edge", it doesn't take much to push you over the edge.
If you are centered and get pushed around a little, you won't fall over the cliff into disease or emotional break-down. How close to the edge are you?
What are some of the things that you can do, that I do, to prepare for stress?
1. Exercise: A strong and fit body handles stress because it is stable and burns up the negative energy created by stress.
2. Breath: Stress causes us to "mouth breathe" 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".
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 because 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.
I hope this helps you and I hope you take this to heart and understand that our thoughts and behaviors MATTER. Please share this if you found it helpful.
"Don't stress the COULD HAVES, if it SHOULD HAVE, it WOULD HAVE". -Author Unknown