“It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it”Lena Horne
Stress is the normal and natural response of our bodies to survive an impending physical danger. The sympathetic nervous system is stimulated. Adrenaline and cortisol floods the body. Our blood pressure spikes, the heart beats faster, our senses become sharper, and we are prepared to either fight or flee depending on what the situation requires. Back in the day, this response served humankind well. Our ancestors may have encountered an animal or other physical danger and needed to act quickly to survive. When the danger subsided, the parasympathetic system kicked in. Blood pressure dropped, breathing slowed down and the body and mind went back to its balanced, harmonious, and relaxed state. All was well.
Our bodies were designed to spend short amounts of time in flight or fight mode. But in today’s society we spend prolonged amounts of time in a stressful state of being. And it is to our detriment. We no longer face the danger of encountering a wild animal on a daily walk through the woodland, but our bodies do not recognize the difference between a wild boar and a wild boss.
Effects of Stress on the Body
Prolonged stress affects the body, mind and emotions in various ways:
- Impairs the immune system
- Accelerates the aging process
- Leads to Depression and anxiety
- Increased risk of chronic disease
4 Ways to Eliminate Everyday Stressors
Stress will slowly kill you, steal your joy, and prevent you from experiencing peace. Being able to eliminate stressors from your life will lead to improved physical, mental, and energetic health. I’d like to share with you 4 ways I have been able to eliminate everyday stressors from my life to experience more joy and peace.
1. Get Organized
I feel empowered and in control when I am organized. On Sunday’s, I pick out our outfits for the week and iron them. That makes every morning so much easier. I try to get as much done as I can the night before to avoid feeling rushed in the morning. I make to-do lists of everything that needs to be done for the day. It helps to manage my time effectively and keep me focused. I have a clear, flexible plan for the day. I’m not going through the day haphazard, reactive. I am being proactive. I know what needs to be done and I focus on the most important items first. If I don’t get to everything on the list, I know that the priority items have been handled and I’ll get to the rest, tomorrow. Or the next day. One must bring direction, focus and organization to one’s life. Have you ever seen someone who is always rushing and never seems to be prepared? That causes an undue amount of stress that can be easily remedied. Make your life easier and get organized. Benjamin Franklin said, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”
2. Focus on the Bigger Picture
If you don’t do anything else, this is what you need to learn to do. ASAP! One of my life themes has become, “I don’t give a shit”. I made a list of my 5 core values and decided that if it wasn’t on my list of values, it would not have my time, energy or focus. My top 5 values are
- My physical, spiritual and energetic health
- My daughter
- My relationship with my significant other
- Financial freedom
- Fulfilling my ancestral assignment
Everything and everyone else had to take a back seat to these 5 things. This was the bigger picture. These five things were all that mattered. I didn’t care who was President was or who the next mayor was going to be. I didn’t care so much about meeting the expectations of society. I stopped stressing about work. I only had one question, “was that direct deposit gonna hit every two weeks?” I didn’t care so much about the tea. I had to start minding my own business and tend to my own garden. I began to tell myself, “don’t sweat the small stuff”. I had to start focusing on all the good things in my life and express gratitude for my many, many blessings. Are you familiar with the 5 by 5 rule? It says, “if something won’t matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes worrying or stressing about it”. Focus on the bigger picture, don’t sweat the small stuff, determine what really matters to you, and let the chips fall where they may.
Running has saved my life. When I run, nothing else matters. My problems seem smaller and my troubles fewer. After my run, I feel like a brand new woman. Exercise is a great stress reliever. It increases the production of endorphins, protects your body from the physical effects of stress, redirects your focus, improves your mood and calms the mind. Pick any exercise that you enjoy and do it as much as possible, especially on the days you don’t feel like it.
4. Breathing Exercises
The best part about breathing exercises is that they can be done anywhere and at any time, even in the middle of a stressful situation. There have been many times I’ve sat at my desk, played one of my yoga songs and engaged in my breathing exercises. And let me tell you, it works! My favorite breathing exercise is nodi sodhana or alternate nostril breathing. This breathing exercise specifically targets the stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system. It settles the body, mind and emotions and allows a free flow of energy in the body. Another effective breathing exercise is the 4-7-8 method. You inhale for a count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 7 and then exhale for a count of 8. Over time, breathing exercises change the physiology of the body and is an excellent anti-anxiety tool.
Life is life. There are many things out of our control. But we always have control over the essence of our being; from the thoughts we choose to focus on, the words we speak and how we live our lives on a day to day basis. We are not victims or innocent bystanders. We have the power to make our lives a little bit easier and a lot less stressful, if we so choose.
“People become attached to their burdens sometimes more than the burdens are attached to themGeorge Bernard Shaw