There is a fact that doctors attribute at least 85% of all disease to stress! Do you know about a frog story? A frog in a pot of cold water won’t realize the temperature slowly changes. As a result, it doesn’t leap out of the pot to save himself before boiled water kills him. Today, you will learn how stress can influence your physical and mental health, why you should concern, and how you can prevent and overturn its negative effects on you.
Are you like that frog?
Stress has a way of sneaking up on you when you’re not looking and winding you up as tight as a ball of rubber bands. Just like the frog in the water that gradually increases temperature over time, before you know it, you’re in really hot water getting burned or cooked to death.
This has small and large impacts on both your mental and physical states. Mentally, we don’t think as clearly, effectively, or creatively; physically, our body becomes taxed, tired, and toxic. This is all due to the biological effect of the fight-or-flight response.
Unfortunately, this pre-historic response, which was designed to be activated only on occasion and for short periods of time to deal with immediate physical threats (e.g., saber-toothed tiger running toward us), is getting activated by illusory threats (e.g.–a deadline at work, juggling multiple family responsibilities) and on a daily basis.
Symptoms of stress are often not recognized as byproducts of stress and therefore we try to treat them with ineffective (even harmful) means, such as medication, surgery, stimulants (e.g., coffee), depressants (e.g., alcohol), food, addictive habits, etc.
So what are some better ways to handle, minimize, and even thwart the negative stress in your life?
1. Stop every once in a while through the day to breathe deeply and recenter yourself. Good reminders would be when you hang up the phone, or you’re driving and stop at a light or stop sign, or when you walk in the door after you get home from work. A few good deep breaths can instantly calm the fight-or-flight response.
2. Schedule regular times to pray, meditate, practice self-hypnosis or do something else that helps you find your center (paint, play an instrument, read something uplifting, listen to soothing music, take a walk in nature). This should have consistency and preferably be the same time each day/week. Whether it’s every day for 10-30 minutes or once a week for a larger chunk of time, do what works best for you, but DO IT! The difference will be noticeable. (sign up for periodic “reminders” at http://www.hassleme.co.uk/)
3. Make time for intentional exercise. Vigorous exercise releases stress, counteracts stress hormones, produces “feel good” chemicals in the brain, helps you sleep better, increases energy levels, and maintains a healthy body you feel good in. Do something that’s fun for you and you’ll enjoy it even more.
4. Eat better when you’re feeling stressed. Carbs and other “comfort food” might seem like it helps at the time, but they create more stress in the body than they help deter, and often create depression. Plus, you end up with “eater’s remorse” afterwards, don’t you? Drink some water or warm herbal tea, eat a handful of raw nuts or seeds, make a meal with fresh, colorful vegetables and lean protein. “Treat” yourself with a homemade facial or manicure instead of with ice cream, cookies, or cake. You’ll feel infinitely better, both physically and mentally.
5. Recognize ways you create unnecessary stress in your life and work with a coach to help you change these patterns (e.g., overscheduling, perfectionism, not asking for help, saying “yes” when you want to say “no,” interpreting things in a negative or overblown way, staying stuck in “victim” mode). You may try to read books or do it yourself by paying attention to these patterns, but take it from experience–a coach can help you make these shifts more quickly and easily (and even help you become aware of some patterns you hadn’t noticed), and give you firm but non-judgmental support in doing so. Change is usually harder when we go it alone. Do something good for yourself and ask for help from those who are trained to give it.