Unless you permanently live on a tropical island somewhere, stress is an everyday occurrence for most of us. Sometimes it comes from small irritants, like, dealing with "rush hour" traffic, trying to manuever through a "phone tree" that seems to lead nowhere, the toliet overflowing, or hearing your kids argue in the back seat while you take them to another one of their activities. Sometimes stress comes from recurring experiences, such as, deadlines at work, the bills that need to be paid, or the daily chores of taking care of a home and family. And sometimes stress sends shock waves through your life, such as, dealing with the aftermath of a car accident, a diagnosis of cancer, a job lay-off, having your identity stolen, or being with a loved one in Hospice.
Life truly is difficult sometimes, and when you consider the fact that we are bombarded with new information every day through the internet, TV, and social media, and that others have immediate access to us at all hours of the day and night via email, text, and cell phones, it is not surprising that we feel stressed. How many times have you said, "I really need a vacation?" Taking a one-week vacation can do wonders for your sense of well-being that week, but have you noticed how quickly you slide right back into that stressed lifestyle when you return from your break?
Stress is not always a bad thing, though. For example, when you have a deadline at work, feeling stressed can activate your creativity. Or when you need to get out of a dangerous situation, your body's adrenaline response can help you think more clearly and move to safety more quickly. The problem is that many people today live such a rushed, stressed life that adrenaline and cortisol levels are constantly high. It's as though the "fight or flight button" got stuck in the "on" position. And your body pays a high price for it! Stress can lead to high blood pressure and heart attacks. It can contribute to headaches, gastro-intestinal issues, pain in various places in your body, sleep problems, and even hair loss. It can also be an underlying factor in depression, diabetes, obesity, and a weakened immune system. The price you pay may also include aging more quickly than normal. There is no longer any doubt...research shows that stress is making us sick. It is now estimated that about three-quarters of all visits to a doctor today are stress related.
Sometimes it's not about the stress itself, but rather, what we do with the stress. So, what can you do? Here are some things I recommend you try:
1. Pay attention to what you feel in your body. The aches and pains you feel are often your body's early warning signals that you are living with a lot of stress.
2. Learn to breathe in a way that helps to develop coherence between your heart, brain and autonomic nervous system. Proper breathing is the first step in managing stress and anxiety.
3. Pay attention to what you believe. Do you believe you have to do things perfectly, that you can't make a mistake, that you have to make everyone else happy? Figure out where and how you came to believe that, and give yourself permission to change your beliefs and your actions about it.
4. Look for beauty and goodness everyday. At the end of the day, write down in a journal the most beautiful or good thing you heard or observed. Doing this daily programs your unconscious mind. Once it is in your unconscious, it may catch you by surprise, and you will see beauty and goodness even when you are not consciously looking for it.
5. Find something that really makes you happy, and incorporate that into your life regularly.
6. Develop self-compassion. Learn to give yourself encouragement and support. If you struggle with this, as many people do, figure out where and how you came to respond to yourself in a critical, discouraging way, and unhook from the power of those old memories and scripts.
There are many other tools you can learn to use to manage stress, improve the quality of your life, and help you feel better physically, mentally and emotionally.
If you struggle doing any of the above, please call 847-781-1407, or send an email to [email protected] to talk about setting up an appointment.