Comprehensive Stress Management
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” – Albert Einstein
No doubt we live in stressful times, everything seems to be progressing at exponential rates. Everything except our inner being and the ability to cope with all of our demands. The stress we deal with is both physiological and psychological. Stress is the result of what happens to us when our daily challenges are greater then our ability to deal with them. Everyone is in pursuit of happiness and stress is a major road block on that journey.
First we will discuss stress and its impact on our lives, and then we will hopefully propose several actions we can take to overcome it. To have a healthy happy lifestyle I think a holistic approach is needed, but as the majority of our problems are psychological and rooted in the mind they ultimately cannot be resolved without transcending the mind.
This is an arduous individual journey in gaining sufficient understanding to eventually go beyond thought (mind). Going beyond thought takes you to a place of immense inner space, you create sufficient distance to see clearly. To see something in its entirety ends conflict, no more effort in trying to change, a whole new dimension of action. Almost all of our problems exist because there is no clarity through which to understand them.
Having a healthy body and mind gives the possibility of being able to go deep within ones self, to be able to embark on an incredible journey of self discovery and personal truths. But before we are able to explore higher dimensions of growth we need to have a healthy body and mind that is free of stress. Without a healthy body you will not be able to meditate and practice yoga. Without a healthy mind you will lack the proper understanding to perceive higher dimensions of fulfillment that the body alone can’t provide. Life is an immensely fulfilling experience if you are able to experience all the dimensions it provides, in both the material and spiritual realms. To only live in one is to deny the richness that existence provides.
How each of us experiences and handles stress depends on our level of understanding to perceive what is happening to us.
Some of the major stressors include:
- Dealing with major life changes: getting married, graduating school, moving to a new location, suffering an illness, loosing your job, death, etc.
- Environmental stressors: political issues, pollution, crime, our living conditions, etc.
- Work related stressors: deadlines, promotions, downsizing, dealing with the boss, etc.
- Relationship stressors: family, girlfriend, boyfriend, wife, husband, kids, etc.
- Social stressors: friends and your need for a social life.
- Spiritual stressors: Searching for meaning and purpose in your life.
- Fear: fear of failure, fear of your health and safety, fear of loneliness, fear of success, etc.
As you can see being alive is no easy thing, but if you continually work on gaining understanding of yourself and the world, life can a beautiful journey of growth and fulfillment. If you are ever to be in a position to dive deep into the mystery of our existence, stress is going to have to be something you observe within yourself, start to understand it, then eventually with your understanding go beyond it.
Stress is a very serious issue that if constantly stimulated leads to the production of hormones that are detrimental to the cardiovascular system, immune system, increases the likelihood of stroke, cancer, infections, and other chronic diseases.
4 Signs of Being Overwhelmed By Your Stress:
- Your stress is being compounded: you are constantly reacting to the infinite demands of your outside environment that you begin to suppress everything into your unconscious mind. You can feel the inner tension of telling your self “I deal with it later”. Your inner space becomes an ever growing to do list.
- You start feeling that you are simply overwhelmed and incapable of coping.
- Life has lost its joy; you feel a sense of numbness and that life is dull.
- You are never at peace or able to experience the beauty of silence; anxiousness is now your normal state of being.
Some of The Hormones That Affect Our Well Being:
- Cortisol: It is usually referred to as the “stress hormone” as it is involved in response to stress and anxiety. Under normal circumstances cortisol can be useful in returning one to homeostasis after stress. But too much will increase blood pressure and blood sugar, and reduces immune responses. Increased production can lead to destroying the health of muscle and bone; it can delay healing and normal cell regeneration. Impaired digestion and lower mental functioning have also been linked to this hormone.
- Oxytocin: This has been referred to as the hormone of love as it fosters positive feelings of calmness, connection, and increased sexual receptivity. The body’s natural level will be lowered by being constantly stressed out. Activities like yoga, meditation, exercise, deeply caring for something, and an intimate relationship promote the production of this hormone.
- Estrogen: While estrogens are present in both men and women, they are usually present at significantly higher levels in women of reproductive age. Estrogen also helps in the development of female’s physical characteristics and regulating the menstrual cycle. In males are thought to be necessary for a healthy libido.
- Testosterone: It is the principal male sex hormone and an anabolic steroid helping build muscle mass and bone density. In men, testosterone plays a key role in the over all well-being and health.
One can see the importance of having a normal healthy hormonal balance as it has a direct impact on our sense of well being. Repeated stimulation of the stress hormones has been shown to lower the levels of serotonin in the body, and serotonin is thought to be one of the primary chemicals responsible for our good moods.
Stress Management Methods
Approaches and Tools to Achieving Harmony in Mind, Body, Spirit:
- Focused breathing: I practice several techniques referred to as Pranyama. It is often translated as control of the life force. Pranyama is a Sanskrit word meaning “restraint of the prana or breath”. The word is composed of two Sanskrit words, Prana (life force) and “ayama”, to suspend or restrain. There are several techniques which should be practiced with great care, and the advanced pranayama techniques should be practiced under the guidance of a teacher.
- Meditation: The beauty of proper meditation is that it helps you create immense distance in your inner space. It gives you perspective, your level of consciousness changes. It helps you create distance between your thoughts and the witness who watches your thoughts. The problem for most is that they remain to close to their thoughts, being close means being identified. This is why psychoanalysis never actually solves the causes of your problems, it may help you function more efficiently in society, but you remain on the same level. Your problem is in your thinking and you try to solve it with thinking, still remains within the field of thought.
Meditation gives you vertical growth, it gives you a bird’s eye perspective to see your problems, awareness to freely observe, free of conditioning. You become an impartial observer, being impartial you will see the causes, you gain understanding. There is no need to solve the problem, you just need more understanding. It simply exists because you lack sufficient understanding, not enough awareness. That’s why we are always able to give someone else great advice, we are far from the problem, we are impartial, we have clarity to see. The person with the problem is too close to it, to identified, he will say “easy for you to say, this isn’t your problem”. Meditation helps you create the distance for you to see clearly.
- Progressive Muscle relaxation: Progressive Muscle Relaxation is the tensing and then relaxing each muscle group of the body, one group at a time. Tense up a group of muscles, tense hard but don’t strain, and hold for about 5-10 seconds. Release the tension from the muscles all at once. Stay relaxed for 10 – 20 seconds. Have fun with it, experiment and find a routine that works for you.
- Yoga: Yoga is Sanskrit word which essential means “union with god”. While in the west it is mainly practiced for its physical benefits, it should be practiced in conjunction with meditation. Ancient Yogis practiced yoga to cultivate a body that would be able to meditate for extremely long periods of time. Yoga is a great way to increase flexibility, strength, posture, breathing, calmness, concentration, and mood.
- Tai Chi
- Massage Therapy: I love getting Thai massages, I leave with the feeling like I just got a “tune up”. Massages can increase circulation, allowing the body to pump more oxygen and nutrients into tissues and vital organs. Helps reduce spasms, cramping, and recovery time. Stimulates the flow of lymph, the body’s natural defense system.
- Visualization: You can use creative visualization to create a relaxing internal ambiance: Relaxing and Solving Problems Through The Power Of Your Imagination
- Play time: Be a kid again, remember how good it felt?
- Aroma Therapy: Our sense of smell is incredibly powerful as it has a direct connection to the part of the brain that regulates mood- the limbic system. Essential oil baths are a great way to unwind at the end of a hectic day.
- Daily Affirmations: Positive affirmations can be a very powerful tool used to change how each individual thinks and feels about themselves. Read “Top 7 myths about Affirmations” by my friend Nancy.
Soul Food: Foods and diets conducive to a healthy way of living.
- Mediterranean foods: The Mediterranean diet comes from countries like Italy and Greece. It’s high in foods that provide health benefits like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fish and olive oil. Go to your local book store and unleash the “Greek” in you by experimenting with a few recipes. The food truly is tasty and good for you.
- Red Wine: Red wine may help prevent blood clots and reduce the blood vessel damage caused by fat deposits. Red wine is a particularly rich source of antioxidants flavonoid phenolics. Drink responsibly, this is not a license to drink a bottle of wine everyday ?
- Fish: Fish is a high-protein, low-fat food that provides a range of health benefits. People who regularly eat fish have a lower incidence of depression (depression is linked to low levels of omega 3 fatty acids in the brain).
- Whole Grains: Whole grains have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by decreasing cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and blood coagulation.
- Super foods: Top 10 Super Food, dark chocolate, coconut oil, cinnamon, turmeric, green tea, ginger.
- Mood Foods: Tuna, turkey, eggs, wheat germ.
- Foods that increase serotonin: cereal, bread, pasta, oatmeal, walnuts, salmon, lentils.
Resting and Exercise: To have a healthy mind and body means you need to have an adequate amount of rest and exercise.
Resting: Make sure to everyday take some time to stop what ever you are doing and just rest. Enjoy some silence.
Sleep: Is the unconscious form of restoring the mind and body. Make sure to get sufficient deep sleep. When we have dreams it means that we are still carrying all our mental activity into our sleep. During our day we did not attend to all our thoughts so they continue in our sleep. Having too much mental activity will not allow you to fall into the deep rejuvenating deep sleep that your body and mind needs. Make sure you wind down and calm your mind and attend to and settle any thoughts you had in the day.
Insomnia Fighting Tips:
- Don’t bring work home.
- Make sleep a priority.
- Relax to binaural beats.
- Have a proper sleep ambiance.
- Sleep rituals: by making a ritual you program your mind and body to prepare for sleep.
- Sleep aids: White noise machines, ear plugs, melatonin, valerian root, hops, kava, lemon balm, chamomile, saint johns wort.
Workouts: Walk, climb, garden, jump, jog, spin, dance, stretch. Make it a priority to get some type of physical exercise everyday. Be a kid again, remember how good it felt?
Cultivating a healthy mind: Like I mentioned earlier eventually the state of mind we are actually seeking is a state of “no mind”. A mind that is incredibly quiet, incredibly aware. But before we are able to reach this state will need to cultivate right ways of thinking, healthy ways of thinking, to be able to use our mind to go beyond it.
- Optimism: Learn to look at the bright side of things, there is always a lesson to be learned.
- Be present to actually see “what is” not “what should be”: read “Stuck In The Middle: Living In The Land of Observation“
- Laugh: Laughter truly is one of the best medicines 🙂
- Lose the negative self talk
- Cultivate your sense of gratitude: How To Express Your Love and Gratitude For Others
- Acknowledge all the good things in your life, write them down: It’s The Small Things That Matter
The Power of Connection: We are social beings, as Aristotle once said “with out friends no one would choose to live”.
- How To Improve Your Likability To Make Quick Connections
- How To Enjoy and Grow By Being With Yourself
A Life of Purpose a Life of Spirit: What good will it do you to have a healthy mind and body if you don’t put it to use for something worthwhile and fulfilling.
- Discovering your life’s purpose and finding meaning
- Self love: Saying I Love You To The Person In The Mirror
- Humility: Is a by product of being a conscious and aware being: How To Increase Your Awareness and Expand Your Consciousness
- Being 100 percent responsible: The more responsible you become for every facet of your being the more free you will become.
- Loving yourself, loving another: How To Love Actually
- Connection with nature: To Awaken Your True Nature Get Back To Nature
- Being creative: How To Reclaim Your Childlike Creativity
Well there you have it, that should keep you busy for a while, but don’t let this stress you out :). Strive to become a more conscious awake being, practice what feels good to you, you will see that it is truly possible to manage and even go beyond your stress.
Equipped with a healthy body and mind, you will have the energy and the right outlook to pursue and explore the richness of our world. You will have the energy and capability to become the change you want to see in the world, this is the only way to change it. If you can change your consciousness, you can influence the consciousness of the rest of the world.
Your individual consciousness and the consciousness of the whole is one in the same, so if you don’t like what you see change yourself. God speed my friend lets make this world one of contribution and cooperation.
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