Yay! Spring is coming!! The month of March brings us warmer temperatures, longer days, and in many cases, a more positive outlook and attitude.
Let’s face it, winter is tough on us in many ways. We have to survive the holiday season, driving is more stressful, heat bills add stress, and many of us move less in the winter, which takes away an important avenue of stress relief.
Stress Mastery is such an important aspect of The Circle of Life! Without it all other segments suffer the negative effects, which you will read about in this post. Don’t ever underestimate the damaging power of ongoing stress.
Please read on about the importance of identifying stressful situations in your life and correcting how you react and respond. Understanding the negative effects of stress will better motivate you to master a more calm existence and improve the quality of your life, your relationships, and your overall daily flow.
“Stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath. It believes that everything is an emergency.” – Natalie Goldberg
How am I taking care of myself in regard to Stress?
Here are 3 basics to start with:
- Practice taking deep breaths throughout the day
- Pay attention and tune into yourself to see what you need
- Do some type of stretching or exercise daily
Research of medical literature has demonstrated that up to 87% of ALL disease, pain, drug & alcohol abuse, injury, emotional & mental breakdowns are due to stress. Even more important, 95% of stress-related problems can be reduced and prevented entirely by practicing effective stress management techniques.
Effects of Prolonged Stress
With prolonged stress, the human physiological system is severely impacted beyond its limits of tolerance. Prolonged stress can include breathing polluted air, overdoing a repeated motion, ingesting a toxic substance, standing or sitting too long, overworking, being exposed to excess noise, eating a poor diet, not exercising, getting inadequate rest, accepting too much responsibility, etc. When the natural physical limit of the system is surpassed, the body chemistry breaks down and begins to fail. This results in problems such as chronic neck or back pain, Carpal Tunnel syndrome, ulcers or headaches. It can lead to more severe diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Excessive worry, the death of a loved one, moving, divorce, losses and unresolved or demanding relationships can push us past our mental and emotional limits and cause physical changes that may lead to depression, anger, anxiety, substance abuse, nervous disorders, impaired immune system, violence or an extreme decline in productivity.
The Stress Response
The stress response, the fight-or-flight response, is stimulated by real or perceived physical or emotional danger or harm. Physiologically the body responds to the stressful situation with a rush of adrenaline, a racing heart, dilated pupils, elevated blood pressure and rapid breath. In Stress Without Distress, by Dr. Hans Selye, (a pioneering stress researcher) states that chronic activation of the fight-or-flight response leads to strain in the interaction of organs and endocrine glands, exhausting the physiological ability to adapt. Ultimately, the system breaks down and mental or physical illness can set in.
So what are ten simple steps to achieve the relaxation response?
- Find a quiet place – acknowledge that nowhere is completely quiet and make that OK. Select a time when you will not be interrupted. Let your family know that this is your time for you.
- Sit in a comfortable position. Most people prefer a straight back chair . Others sit cross legged on the floor or sofa, It is usually not a good idea to lie down at first. The body is conditioned to think that it is time for sleep . Allow your eyes to close.
- Begin to relax your muscles from head to toe. Assume a passive attitude.
- Become aware of your breathing. Your breath is an anchor of the present moment. Conscious breathing is the simplest mind / body skill.
- You may choose a word or a phrase to repeat silently as you breathe in and out (prayer, mantra or spiritual phrase).
- You may create a visualization about a beautiful place that you feel safe and restful. Creative visualisation (imagery) is the language of the subconscious mind. Your body responds as if you are there.
- Thoughts, cares, lists arise in the mind. Don’t try to push them away. Keep being aware of your breathing and they will pass like clouds.
- Don’t worry about “doing it right” – that is anxiety producing. Just do it!
- Practice, practice, practice. Start with 1-3 minutes and build from there.
- Enjoy being peaceful.
I’ll leave you with these words of wisdom from my favorite CD, The Silent Language of Peace, by Heather Macauley.
“Your perception determines your experience… not the event itself. If you are focused on your problems and feeling stress, worry, anger, and resentment, you will continue to create those experiences in your life. If you want a life full of abundance, joy, love, peace and harmony, you can create it by feeling abundant, feeling love, feeling joy and feeling gratitude. If you doubt your mastery in this area, just realize that you’ve already powerfully mastered your ability to create painful experiences by focusing on fear and negativity. So you can just as powerful create something joyful by focusing your full attention on Love. Do this powerfully and do it with great joy. “