30606277_mlStress Management

Definition: Stress: state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.

Definition: Con·tent·ment: the state of being happy and satisfied : the state of being content

 

In nature, stress is a good thing believe it or not. It helps keep us alert and capable of diverting danger and it makes us stronger and more resilient. But the fact is, todays stress is a lot different than what we were genetically designed to handle. The stress that our ancestors faced was infrequent and varied day to day. Todays stress is more chronic and unrelenting. This is a significant problem. In these modern times we have become to competitive and worry about things like money, job performance and relationships. In trying to keep up with the Jones’ we sacrifice our health and wellbeing. Unfortunately societies primary response to this situation is cheap food, television, alcohol and pharmaceuticals.  

We are quick to blame our external circumstances and choose to reward ourselves with these harmful practices by convincing ourselves that we’ve earned the right to do so. But what if I were to convince you that the leading cause of our stress is ourselves? Sure not all of our circumstances are ideal, sure we always wish we could be somewhere else or have what others have. The grass is always greener, right? Not necessarily. Negative repetitive thoughts that focus on what we don’t have or mentally creating “what if” scenarios.

Again the issue is, as humans, we are not very well adapted to deal with stress on such a chronic level.

So what do we do? How do we make the necessary changes in our lives to deal with this? Well one of the first places to start is with nourishing food. Poor quality food disrupts our hormones and causes inflammation which can directly impact our mental function. Several studies show that regular physical activity has been proven to alleviate stress, anxiety and depression and can be even more effective than prescription drugs. Lastly, sleep. Sleep is one of the biggest areas of concern as it relates to our ability to deal with stress. If you can work on optimizing the quality and duration of your sleep you have a better chance in dealing with the stress and anxiety in your life.

The fact is, it is our lack of attention to quality food, physical activity and sleep that fans the fire of stress. Cultures and societies that still practice traditional lifestyle habits are absent of depression, anxiety and stress. Not to mention disease and much better body composition.

In addition to addressing these three lifestyle factors, it is a great idea to start fostering a positive attitude. Negative thoughts creep in and take over by forcing us to create “stories”. These stories then turn into truths that we convince ourselves are a real. So the one of best ways to help develop a positive attitude and avoid negative thought is to start a daily mindfulness or meditation practice.

Science has clearly proven that these types of activities greatly reduce stress, lower blood pressure and raise our sense of wellbeing.  A good meditation practice allows us to be able to create a little space in our lives. It gives us the ability to recognize stressful moments and take a step back to assess the situation. We then become more responsive in our nature rather than reactive to situations.

Where to start.

  • Provide yourself with nourishing food, walk every day and make an effort to get good sleep.
  • Start with a 5 minute breathing meditation every day (or other type of mindfulness practice)
    • 5 minutes every day is better than 15 minutes every other day.
    • Two great phone apps are “Headspace” and “Insight Timer”
  • Read meaningful and though provoking material daily (Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now)
  • Give yourself time and be compassionate with yourself.
    • If you get frustrated, relax, smile and try again.
    • Distracting thoughts will happen. The trick is not to attach yourself to them. Just let them go and start again.

You can do this! You owe it to yourself to take the time to relax and cultivate a peaceful calm mind.

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