Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Healthy Living: Choose Not To Stress

“If your teeth are clenched 
and your fists are clenched, 
your lifespan is probably clenched.” 
~Terri Guillernets

When you are stressed your body feels and experiences it everywhere. Every single cell of your body.  Your head knows it. Your heart knows it. Your little toe knows it.  

 It infects every part of your body and causes disease. It might be a heart condition, it might be anxiety or depression or it might be a failed relationship. Stress will get you unless you learn to keep it in check.

How about a little journal exercise? 

Grab a pen and paper or open a word document. Now try saying the following two statements out loud:

“Stress helps me be the most productive me I can be in all aspects of my life and reach my goals.” 

“Stress obscures my vision of what I truly want in life, blocks my creativity and hinders my ability to be productive in the most important aspects of my life.”

Take a minute and write down how those statements make you feel.  Say them again if you need to.   

How does your body feel as you say those words out loud?  Which of those statements feels the truest? What do your current actions suggest you believe to be the truest?  Are your current actions reflecting what you feel to be the truth?

When your body is in fight or flight mode there is nothing else.  There is no room for creative thinking, for being in the flow, for connecting with your environment.   

Everything you do in a stressful state of mind goes through that stress filter.  You cannot be your very best when you are stressed.

Most of us in this culture have lived in a constant state of stress since grade school.  So how do you break the cycle?

Understand Your Stress

Why don't we go ahead and break out that journal again? 

Write about a recent experience you had with stress.  What caused the situation to be stressful? How did it impact how you handled the situation? What was the trigger(s)? Did your body signal you that you were stressed? If so how?

How could you handle the same situation without stress?  If that seems to impossible, ask yourself how would a stress free person handle the same situation?

Next Time You Start To Feel Stressed Try:

Take a deep breath or three, or ten.  For just a moment forget about everything else but the breath entering and leaving your body.  “Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.”  ~Etty Hillesum 
Go for a run or walk or other aerobic activity and sweat it out.  

Set healthy boundaries.  Although it is not the social norm it is healthy to say no sometimes.  Know what you can handle and don’t commit to anything more. By setting boundaries you are being a more healthy you and setting a good example for others around you.

Keep things in perspective.  Focus only on what you have control over and let the rest go.  

Break things down and do one small task at a time mindfully and let everything else go from your mind for the moment.  If it does not deserve your full attention, does the task deserve your attention at all?

“Stress is an ignorant state.  It believes that everything is an emergency.” ~Natalie Goldberg

Stress is an unbalanced state of clinging to something, or the idea of something, we have identified as a need rather it actually is or not.    

When you truly need something, such as food that should be a stressful emergency.  In nature that elevated heart rate and wound up energy will likely help you find food faster. 

Being the most active volunteer at your kids school is not an emergency.  Stress will not help you be any more successful in that task.   

Life will go on if you do not do what you think you should do.  Life will even go on if you do not do what you have committed to do. 

Unless your survival is at stake, stress does not serve you.

Go ahead and crack open that journal one more time and ask yourself:  What really matters? What deserves my occasional stress?.  What does not?  What commitments and obligations can I let go of?  What am I going to do to choose a stress free life?

Click here to read the other posts in this healthy living series so far.

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