Chronic stress is a gateway to internal decay.
Stress, I must hear this word daily from all sorts of people: co-workers, clients, family members, even myself. It seems like everyone is stressed most of the time. Just reading the word “stress” causes, well stress, don’t you think? In a society that has evolved itself into technological advancement, one would think our lives would be stress-free. Vehicles or bikes take us everywhere. Microwaves, take-out and the drive thru help with those last minute meals. Washing machines and dishwashers clean for us.
We have developed ways over the past century to reduce our stress, right?
Why is there more stress than ever before?
Why are there new medical conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
What have we done to ourselves and how can we fix this?
Stress is a normal human condition necessary in one case only, survival. Our human response “fight or flight” is a natural state and reaction to surviving. “I must out-run this saber-toothed tiger. I must hunt all night to find food to feed my family for we are starving and will not make it through the winter. I must find herbs for my child’s cut or he will lose his leg.” Stress is a normal process of the autonomic nervous system. We are built to handle acute stress or stress that occurs over a short period.
A stressor is the factor which causes the stress. Once we figure out what our stressor is, during an acute stressful period, we can alleviate the condition: hide from the tiger, kill the buffalo and find the herb, simple enough.
Chronic stress is when the stressful condition lasts over a long period of time. This means that the body stays in a perpetual heightened state of arousal, which affects every system in the body. This type of stress occurs all too frequent in today’s modern society. Maybe we’re stuck in traffic or we have a high-paced job with lots of tight deadlines, or the holidays are coming up and we have a lot of debt and, phew, I need to calm down because I just stressed myself out.
See, it’s that easy. My brain, monkey-mind as they call it, jumping from thought to thought, problem to person, job to event to traffic. Hey, what happened to survival again? Wait a minute, I’m alive. I have food for the winter. I have a dishwasher to clean up for me. I have a soft, cushy couch to sit on and watch True Blood tonight. My kids are safe. I can take the bus if my car’s in the shop.
Life’s good, I am alive and so are you. So what is all this stress about?
If left unchecked, chronic stress can be a debilitating roadblock on your journey in life. It is estimated to be the cause of 90 percent of doctor visits. Chronic stress affects all systems of the body, including your immune system. Remember that cold that put you on your behind for a week, it was stress induced. It raises blood pressure and heart rate, which causes heart disease. Stress is the reason most of us have imbalanced hormones leading to a whole host of problems such as diabetes, cancer and autoimmune disorders. It weighs heavily on the brain and is a main contributor in developing depression, anxiety and irritability. Stress can cause muscle contractions and spasms, you’ll feel it with muscle aches, pains and weakness. Lastly, stress affects your digestive system creating slower digestion, constipation, diarrhea, cramps, weight gain or loss and nausea.
Well, to me stress sounds horrible. This is something that must be eliminated in order for humans to evolve. How can we eliminate this rampant and needless evolutionary obstruction? I’ve discovered five ways to help eliminate stress in our modern lives:
I am certain that if you have self-love, that is the desire to take care of yourself, treat your body as the temple it is and always trust in your intuition, you can do no wrong. You will always make the right decision and even if you feel it is wrong just know it is right and you may not know this until way in the future. Remember this, every decision you have made up until this point was necessary to get you to this point.
Finding 10 minutes a day, preferably right when you wake up and the kids are still sleeping and right before you go to bed and the kids are sleeping. I use my closet, sometimes I use my bathroom. I just sit on the floor (does not have to be lotus style), close my eyes and be as still as possible. I notice immediately a sense of calm, serenity and I sleep much better too. Try adding essential oils and deep breathing. If you do nothing else, try meditation. It will change your life.
A lot of the time what we think is stress may actually be a lack of important vitamins and minerals. Maybe we’re not getting enough leafy greens, omega-3s or fresh water for crying out loud. Remember that microwave we talked about earlier? Convenience may be the way to go, but it could actually be causing more stress by preventing the body’s absorbance of vital life-enhancing nutrition. Try green smoothies instead of egg sandwich for breakfast for one week. Cut down on caffeine and other stimulants. Try giving up dairy and gluten for a spell and see how that does you. An allergen just may be your stressor.
Most of us are deficient in vitamin D3, the stuff that only sunshine can help us synthesize right within our skin. When we were children, we, hopefully, were out in the sun a lot. Our vitamin D reserves were built and got us through those tough teen years and early 20s in college when we didn’t see as much sun. When you reach your mid-20s and early 30s, lack of sun exposure begins to catch up with us. For many of us it may come in the form of depression. It may disguise itself as anxiety and stress. Whatever its form, getting more sun exposure, at least 15 minutes of direct sunlight a day and/or taking a daily supplement of D3, can very well help your symptoms. Try a tanning bed once a week for 10 minutes. Just don’t become like that mom and start tanning your kids.
During one of my stints in college, I took a personal wellness class. A lecture was given on “Be Here Now.” It forever changed my life and my perception of the world around me. The theory is very much like zen living, living in the moment. Be aware of your surroundings and your body at all times. Recognize your stressors and when you “catch” them, you can actually visualize yourself catching those stressors whether they may be thoughts, mental pictures of people or worries. I hold mine in a bubble and then blow the bubble away. I “watch” the bubble gently float away along with the stressors inside. It may take some practice but it helps me. I allow my stressors to leave. I accept them, tell them they are causing me great pain and sickness, and then release them.
Stress is not going anywhere anytime soon, but how we react to our stress is in our power. We do have the power to get rid of stress, it is possible to live without it. Let it lie with our ancestors and be released from modern society. It would be nice to let them know all of their hard work and stress was for something.
Kristen Peters is a Holistic Health Coach & Aromatherapist residing in Raleigh, NC with her husband, three children, two Chihuahuas, and cat. A lover of hiking, reading, knitting, gaming, meditation, and yoga she has dedicated her life to assisting others Be the Change. Visit her website www.kristenpeters.net to download her free eBook, “Five Small Changes That Will Have a Big Impact on Your Digestive Health”.
Editor: Maja Despot