Its become a part of everyday life… its not taboo… even my kids talk about it… they are exposed to it more often than they need to be… its on the agenda whether we like it or not… so lets just get down to it.
Oh wait… what? You thought I was talking about something different didn’t you… Well it could have been any number of things to be honest… Sleep deprivation, School, Sugar, Screens, Sacrifice, Sadness, Separation, Smog, Sustainability, Spending, Sickness, and yes it could have been Sex… BUT … lets talk about what all of these things can lead to if we let it… STRESS!
I know I know, perhaps its no where near as topical to talk about as some of those other “S” words… I mean most of us try to avoid it… and I have never really been one to dive into conversation, here-say, gossip or fake news about all the guff that in the end, doesn’t lead us to where we want to be with whom we want to be with… but if we stop and take a look at the impact Stress has then it makes a whole more sense to talk about it instead.
So the reason why I want to talk about Stress is that for the past month our house has been filled with it. For many people this time of year really is a killer! Whether you are in business, an employee, education, health, or another profession, the midyear brings with it all manner of tension. Why? essentially this is a period of evaluation, adaptation and change. One financial year to another, one semester to another, one season to another…and our minds and bodies are naturally programmed to avoid change at all costs, so its no wonder we all it crazy town!
One thing that is very obvious to me, and if I stopped to think about it, was obvious long before I was an adult, is that the stress that is in our lives, often becomes the stress that is in someone else’s lives, whether we like it or not. Stress is essentially energy, that we feed into either a positive or negative reaction to a situation. Our energy is something that we pass on to others and that we absorb from them as well. I remember the feeling in our house like it was yesterday…when my Dad would come home, the tension would peak as he brought his stress into the house, and while mum did everything she could to remain calm it became her doing everything she could to appease Dad so he calmed down, which then created a palpable negative energy that we would all have to push through, and at times we drowned in. The impact of this from my adult perspective lead to communication and relationship breakdowns, lack of self confidence, lowered ability to think positively, dream and plan for future success, disordered eating patterns, deterioration of trust, misuse of power, negative money attitudes, issues that involve mental and emotional issues, and pattern of living that became the norm. I have too have felt this in my house of late and I sincerely don’t love being reminded of this feeling again. What I hate more is seeing how this impacts on my children. My greatest fear is creating an environment that feeds the re-creation of negative coping habits and behaviors. I have this overriding sense that it is up to me to break the chains of stress and create a new norm!
And look, its not the only time it has been, or will be in our lives. Its cyclic. It less obtrusively exists on a weekly level where so many of us work hard for the weekend, and we spend the weekend de-stressing so that we can do it all again. I am sure that most people know that feeling well. Its become our norm.
And what do we do to de-stress? We relax! We sit around watching Netflix, we consume high fat, high sugar foods and drink far too much alcohol. Or for others we stay up late and socialise (on or offline) and talk “Shit”, watch “Shit” and maybe even take “Shit” as a means to “De-stress” (excuse the expletives but you get what I mean). We feed ourselves with everything we don’t need to make our selves feel better, which in the long run make us feel worse. Or, alternatively we pack so much into our weekends, burning our candle with no down time to make up for the fact that we have not had the time or the energy to do it during the week that we are more tired by Sunday than we were on Friday… And YES, I am guilty as charged…
So what does all this do to us on a physiological level. The bodies stress response is relatively un-evolved. It occurs in 3 stages – Alarm, Resistance, and Exhaustion. In which ever case is your natural stress state our bodies react in the same way. Our body secretes cortisol that is produced by our adrenal glands, it’s our stress hormone that triggers all manner of actions in our body as virtually all our cells have cortisol receptors. It can impact on metabolism efficiency, circulation and heart rate issues, blood pressure concerns, immune response, inflammation concerns both internal and external, sleep patterns, reproductive function and balance, and so much more….
Lets face it though… Stress is a natural part of life, it always has been and always will be… so what has changed that it has become such an issue for us in our modern world? In the past the rush of cortisol that was released would cause a release of glucose and fatty acids into the blood stream, in increase in heart rate and breathing rates, a redirection of blood flow and in increase in neurotransmitter action leading to greater excitability of our skeletal muscles in order to cope with a real life threat. Now, our body does the same thing but our life threat exists by means of constant pressure to meet deadlines, financial stress, emotional disconnect, digital stimulation etc….The real difference lies in the fact that we don’t actually need the physiological change to get through these perceived threats so our body has to try and balance out again and it is in this process that the trouble begins. We continue to create massive highs leading to deep lows and as our body strives to maintain homeostasis and balance it goes into survival mode storing fat, limiting production or over-producing metabolic and reproductive hormones, suppressing immune response, increased inflammatory response, cognitive dysfunction and imbalance and so on… Creating these constant adaptations in an attempt to find balance leads to physiological or behavioural patterns that impact negatively on health:
- irregular sleep patterns
- weight gain or weight management issues
- inflammatory issues such as acne, asthma, arthritis and more
- anxiety, depressions and other mental health issues
- circulatory issues
- heart disease
- headache or chronic pain
- digestive and gut health concerns
- reproductive health issues
- and more…
So what do we do about it? Isn’t modern life unavoidable? It seems so hard to break the norms… what is the answer? For me, I believe answer here is yes and no. Yes, Stress is unavoidable, but No, we don’t have to live the norm. It has taken me 42 years to work this out of course , so perhaps I am a slow learner, I’ll take that. But what I have been able to do over this time is live through the stresses thrown across my path and find and develop ways that I can best help keep me balanced. I recently have started running workshops and I thought I might share some of these strategies in the hope that I might encourage you to change your life and your health in a direction where you are NOT governed by Stress and that you can work to create a new norm for you and your family.
Firstly I consciously “BUMP” off stress. This little strategy is something I turn to multiple times a day to help me interpret stress, adapt in a more positive and balance way :
- Breathe – control your breath, focus on it, engage in deep chest breathing and slow it down
- Unleash or Unlock – tension is stored energy, so we must consciously let go
- Mindful Movement -High energy rhythmical tension release &/or slow controlled lengthening of your muscles head to toe
- Posture – reset your posture and position yourself in a positive state of energy flow and open mind
Secondly I support my body with adaptogenic herbs, and I have an incredible mix that works to reign in cortisol and therefore have an incredibly positive effect on health, mental clarity, sleep and energy levels, exercise recovery, immune function, inflammation control and hormonal balance. And whats more it has an incredible pomegranate flavor which I love! The herbs are:
- Indian Gooseberry
And Thirdly I practice prioritising & time blocking. I work to run my day the best way I can by identifying my priorities and ensuring that each day they cross all areas of my life and health – my professional life, my family life, my physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual balance. Often they will cross over but the action of giving each one of my priorities a set time allows me to have small wins every day which is ultimately important in reducing stress and feeling satisfied. Once you start you can really surprise yourself as to how much time you have in each day.
And now I will ensure I strive to recognise that Stress is a natural part of life, and that it is not always negative if we BUMP it off. I will support my body and nourish it in ways that will help it adapt and cope with stress. I will Approach each day with small wins in mind and make them my priority. Every small step in the right direction is a step closer to living my best life and changing the norms for modern life for me and my family.