I have addressed many issues around nutrition and health but one of the biggest factors that affects our health at one point or another (or sometimes ongoing) is stress.
What causes stress, what is the effect of stress on our body, how do we cope with it and what can we do to change it? These past three crazy years have introduced so many additional stressors, and absolutely everyone worldwide has been affected in one way or another by COVID stress.
The four basic types of stress are sensory, physical, mental and emotional.
Sensory stress presents as anxiety or irritation from loud or constant noises, traffic, background noise, children or family fighting, barking dogs etc. Regular noises in your environment can cause stress and a rise in blood pressure.
Mental stress is caused by difficult mental tasks or responsibilities that require much mental focus or from overwhelm due to life difficulties, job expectations or trying to juggle everything in these difficult times.
Physical stress occurs in our bodies when we overuse our bodies through intense physical effort or working long hours, lack of sleep, injury. This stress often takes the form of physical pain.
Emotional stress occurs when we have relationship issues or loss (grief), chronic worry, guilt, shame, anger or resentment, or any other form of emotional resistance. Emotional stress is also caused by fear.
My favourite acronym for fear: Future Expectations Appearing Real. The key to understanding fear (which always causes stress and anxiety) is that it is all about the future, which has not happened yet. And just because we imagine or think something, does not make it real. Fear is lack of presence and to become present one must make a practice of choosing to be present.
We are so much more than our thoughts. In fact, we really shouldn’t trust our thinking if our thoughts don’t bring us to a positive state of mind with gratitude, peace, presence, joy and happiness. If they are chronically negative they could be harming us emotionally, and causing stress which translates to physical issues in our body like high blood pressure, heart disease, cancers and many other illnesses. Stress kills because of the harmful hormones that are produced. Stress is a result of perception and thinking.
Trying to get out of our thinking mind is a difficult thing to do and requires practice. This is the premise behind meditation, which is one of the healthiest things you can do. Before all you cowboys out there think I am too granola, meditation is about focused and disciplined thinking (or lack of thinking). It gives the mind a rest and is therefore one of the best ways to combat stress. An easy and simple practice is to sit and breathe, noticing every breath and focusing on the inhale and the exhale. Getting out of our thinking mind and just noticing our breath brings us into a more relaxed state. And in relaxation we release stress. We can add positive thinking statements or declarations such as “I am here, Now, in this breath” to help us focus. There is nothing more present than the breath we are in right now.
An excellent book about presence is The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. There are also some great apps for the phone. Headspace is a good one but I have just come across one called Insight with 9,000 free meditations to explore. Today more and more people are turning to mental wellness activities, born of necessity because of our increasingly stressed human experience. Exercise, mindfulness and choosing to be present are keys to being in a peaceful and healthier state.
Claire Nielsen is a health coach, author, public speaker and founder of www.elixirforlife.ca. The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional health and medical advice. Please consult a doctor or healthcare provider if you're seeking medical advice, diagnoses and/or treatment.