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I particularly love this topic but it is almost always the piece of the puzzle that is missing from a truly healthy life. Most people who are really into their health will have a great workout routine, work really hard with their food, drink lots of water, but then pay no attention (or minimal attention) to their stress level.
Stress plays a huge role in our overall health. So many people (myself especially) have all the other pieces so we assume we'll see progress and success and then when we don't, we end up disappointed and confused because we've been working so hard.
What we see in the Blue Zones is that centenarians have incredible stress management tools. Tools they have naturally been using for years and years.
It's never too early to start finding strategies that work for you. In fact, I actually insist on it. On the other hand, it's never too late. Our body at any age can benefit from some good stress management.
Studies show that being under stress can shorten your life expectancy by almost three years. While this may not seem like a lot when you add in other factors it starts to add up.
Stress on the body is more than just psychological stress. Disease, drugs, poor diet, sedentary life, etc. all put stress on the body. For example, smoking can shorten your life expectancy by almost seven years and diabetes by about six and a half years.
Stress is a very personal thing. We each feel stress differently and we cope with it differently. For example, for me, I feel stress very physically, usually around my mouth and throat. I'll get stress ulcers (or canker sores) all over my mouth and throat, and I'll often clench my jaw so hard it's sore and I get a headache.
The way I work through my stress will be different than someone who carries stress in their gut or through psychological sensations.
So my tips in this one will be different than other blogs. My tips will be about finding what works for you instead of concrete and specific tips. I know that might make it hard but what works for me may not work for you and I truly believe that to be true about stress.
I say this in the nicest and most supportive way possible. Slow things down! I know society tells you that hard work and hustle are the only way to success but I am here to tell you it's not. And honestly, a huge reason for chronic and preventable diseases often comes from this high level of stress we place on our bodies.
When we slow down we develop a new baseline of what we can do in a day. It's not always less by the way. It's often just higher quality and more focused productivity. See when we slow down and stop multi-tasking we can produce higher quality work, faster because we are focused.
As a Manifesting Generator, it's been a hard lesson to learn to stop multi-tasking. Multi-tasking sort of felt like it was built into my DNA but I am working hard so that I can produce higher quality work.
Slowing down also helps our nervous systems not have to be on high alert all the time. When our nervous systems move from fight-or-flight to rest-and-digest we can actually think clearer and have the ability to go inward. When we go inward we can discover what our bodies need to work through the stress we've put on it.
To discover what strategies work for you to deal with your stress you'll need to try a lot of things. Keep an open mind and don't push away a strategy because you think it sounds silly or it's too "woo" or something.
If you try something and it really doesn't work then move on to something else. It doesn't have to work just because someone told you it was the best way to combat stress. For instance, I love meditation as a tool to combat my stress and all sorts of other things. I am taking a mindfulness course because I think it's so powerful. There has been a lot of research done on meditation to show the power it possesses. I used to introduce it to the kiddos I worked with and the changes I saw were incredible.
But I am not naive enough to know that not everyone likes meditation and some people find it really difficult. If you don't like something or you put so much pressure on yourself to make it work then you're actually just adding to your stress. Sometimes you have to find ways to make it work for you. When I started meditating I couldn't sit still for the life of me (I still can't!) so I would do guided meditations while I was on a walk through trails. That was very helpful!
Don't be afraid to try new things. It can't be any worse than walking around with massive stress.
Honestly, sometimes telling someone you trust about how you're feeling can be some of the best medicine. Holding in your stress can help it accumulate and build up in your body. So when you tell someone you're essentially releasing it, setting it free. It can also provide the other person with an opportunity to release their stress too.
Sometimes speaking about your stress aloud can be exactly what you need to find management strategies.
Your trusted person might have some strategies that work for them that you could give a shot or you may have one pop into your head just from simply saying it aloud.
Either way, speak about it and send the stress out of your body!
We tend to fill our minds up so we aren't actively thinking about our stress. This issue is we don't need to be actively thinking about it for it to affect us. But if we aren't actively thinking about our stress we may see our symptoms as something else such as illness. For which we would go and take a pill (hint: there are no pills to get rid of stress so you are just pushing the stress down for a bit but it'll come back).
When we don't actively think about it we also aren't actively thinking about stress management tools. This is the key. It's not about acknowledging "yes I have stress," that's a given in today's society, it's about saying "okay I have stress, what tool can I use in this moment to help."
Stop for a moment, take that moment to clear the thoughts in your mind and figure out what you need. When we don't have a million thoughts running through our heads we have the space and capacity to include things we want to be there instead of things that force their way in. This allows us to communicate with our bodies and get to the bottom of what we actually need.
This is a huge one! When we let the stress build up in our bodies this tends to get us closer and closer to burnout. Burnout is kind of like the ultimate stress. It's chronic stress and it doesn't go away with a simple meditation (believe me I tried. I am the queen of burnout).
Burnout is long-lasting and takes a while to recover from. This length of recovery can lead to some mega guilt, again, been there. Guilt is just another form of stress (isn't everything?) so we start having stress on stress on stress and now we have to deal with all kinds of stress.
We cannot recover from burnout and stress while we are still feeling guilty. Something I want you to understand is that it's totally normal in today's society to feel bad for having to slow down, investing time in ourselves, and maybe taking some extra time off. But just because something is normal in society doesn't mean it's right. At one point slower lives were the norm, we just suffer from "changing baseline syndrome."
Each generation bases the baseline or the norm on what they know, not remembering that generations earlier had a different baseline or norm. You do not need to feel guilty for taking care of yourself. Your first task is dropping that guilt and then the other strategies will fall into place.
Stress is a tough one. It has run rampant in our society, so rampant it's actually considered normal. That blows my mind.
We shouldn't settle for that. We do not deserve to live with massive amounts of stress hanging over us all the time.
Let's challenge this "normal" and create a "new normal" (and not the new COVID normal everyone is talking about because that is certainly not normal) but a new slower, less stressed normal.
Imagine what the world could accomplish if we weren't weighed down by stress all the time?!
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