Stress is such a buzz-word these days, isn’t it? From detoxing with ‘green juice’ to staring at the sun and meditating for 8 hours a day, so many activities and media campaigns have now become obsessed with tackling this elusive enemy. We can’t avoid the presence of some advert, some poster, some model telling us that her solution is the answer to stress, anxiety, and tension. But, what is the truth? How can we really get to the heart of dealing with stress… and why in the world is it so important to do, anyway? Fear not – in this post we help make sense of all the mixed messages, we go through what stress really means, and, of course, how you can start defeating it in your own life. Ready? Let’s get started. So, what is stress? Well, on the one hand it’s your mind and body’s response to situations outside of the norm, that is, those circumstances that place pressure on your life in various ways. On the other hand, it can also be the cumulative effect of months and years of daily, gnawing minor problems, all of which culminate in a sense of chronic unease and anxiety. Either way, blood pressure rises, muscles are affected, and eventually your mind and willpower can’t keep up… you have a melt down and drop all of the balls you thought you were juggling so well.
Here’s the thing about stress: mental worry and anxiety translates into physical problems such as back pain, neck pain, and – over time – a host of other more serious issues: high blood pressure, diabetes if you’re not careful, and numerous mental health problems. So, I guess it’s easy to see why ‘stress’ is such a popular topic, right? Ignoring stress leads us down a very dangerous path, one which we won’t be able to get off very easily if we aren’t aware of the pitfalls.
So often, pain is a result of pent up tension in the muscles and surrounding areas caused by… you guessed it… stress. So, if we take a step back and trace the pain back to the root cause, you may be surprised to find that it’s not the position in which you sleep, but rather your lack of sleep that’s causing your neck pain. It may not be your shoulders that are hurting you, but your lack of a decent break from your desk that’s causing the problem. And yes – it may not be the fact that your briefcase is too heavy, it may simply be that you haven’t left it in the office often enough to know that going home to relax may actually be the best thing for it!
It’s extremely important to make time for your mind and body; in other words, don’t let stress win. You see, stress flourishes in an environment that enjoys anxiety and frenzy. Take stock of where you are, right now, and begin deconstructing the way in which you make your life hospitable to stress.
One way in which you may be causing stress to thrive is by not allowing your basic needs to be met. Are you eating well? Is your food nutritious, do you eat away from your desk, do you get enough sleep, drink enough water, and step away from the screen often enough? Are you getting some sunshine and fresh air? These things are incredibly important – your overall wellbeing depends on them.
In addition, are you giving yourself enough time to exercise? I’m not suggesting you train for a marathon, although if you want to… great! What I do want you to focus on, though, is taking 30 minutes a day to energize your body via a little exercise: walking, swimming, jogging, even rollerblading! You need to move so as to release tension and generate endorphins – the happy, stress-pulverizing hormones.
And on that note, are you doing things you love to do? When last have you painted or played that violin? Are you too old for puzzles? I think not! Challenge yourself to do the things you wish you were doing – learn a new skill and ignite a passion for something you didn’t know you loved. There is almost nothing better in the world for the reduction of stress than a committed infatuation with a hobby you love. Go ahead… give the banjo a try!
And please drink enough water. You’re 75% water… you’re basically a fish, so please hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Your muscles need water for healing, your mind needs water to think, your skin needs water to glow, and your blood needs water to purify. There’s truly no better drink you can have – put that energy drink down and head to the tap.
Ok, I mentioned meditation earlier – and though you may not be prepared to do 8 hours, you should certainly strive to breathe deeply, think deeply, and be conscious of your mind and body for 15 – 20 minutes a day. Not only will this time revitalize you, but you’ll begin gaining a deeper and more powerful perspective of every aspect of your life. As you maintain a constant relationship with meditation, the bigger picture will emerge and you’ll find your purpose, motivation, and an inherent clarity of what’s really important in life. And guess what? Stress hates that! If you’re not sure this right for you, though, why not incorporate a therapy session or two, too? You never know – it could change your life.
On that note, if you’ve been dealing with stress for a while now and are feeling the negative effects on your body, please reach out to a physical therapist. Not only will quality, hands-on physical therapy eradicate the pain, but it will give you the best possible foundation to make those right, healthy choices. Remember, pain reinforces stress, so as a means to reducing stress, feeling happier, and making time for yourself, physical therapy is the best choice.
Don’t hesitate when it comes to stress – making decisions that can combat its sometimes heartbreaking effects is absolutely essential. From exercise, through to healthy eating and physical therapy, the choices you make – right now – will pave the way for a brighter, happier, and worry-free future.