Managing Stress: Take Care of Yourself
It is estimated that one million Americans miss work due to stress related complaints. Almost ninety percent of visits to all Healthcare providers are due to stress related problems. Stress is linked to all the leading causes of death such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, accidents, and suicide. Nearly one half of all adults suffer from adverse effects of stress.
Take Care of Yourself
When you get together with your family and friends and at the end of the evening when it’s time to leave, people will often say to one another, “take care of yourself!” We all do it. Have you ever wondered who that is, yourself? Who is yourself. Is it the clothes you wear, your bank balance, your home or car. Is it the role you play in your family as caretaker to aging parents, or young children. Who is yourself and is that part of you often overlooked or lost in the shuffle. Maybe you consider it to be your inner most being, your mind and quiet thoughts or hopes and dreams. Maybe you prefer to think of yourself as your spirit or soul. What ever yourself means to you all of the aspects of it rely on your well being. Yourself needs to be nurtured, respected, included, cared for, and loved by you.
Disease is defined as a body not at ease or in Dis-ease. Stress starts in the mind and ends in your immune-system and well being. It can cause disease, Disease can refer to a chronic (lasting a long time), or acute (sudden onset or new) condition or injury. Disease comes from physical or emotional pain or an imbalance between stress and relaxation. Inadequate rest, sleep or nutrition are contributory factors to disease. A sedentary lifestyle (not getting off the couch), poorly managed risk factors, or general lack of self awareness and care cause disease.
Know your disease risk factors. Modifiable risk factors can be managed with healthy eating and exercise. If you have a condition that requires a physician to prescribe medications try to comply with the plan of care set out for you and adhere to you medication or exercise regimen. Modifiable risk factors might include stress, smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, poor nutrition, alcohol consumption, recreational drug use, and sedentary lifestyle.
Tools For Your Tool Box
Close your eyes for a minute and try to imagine a tool box for yourself. It can be made of any material you want from heavy bronze metal to soft pink velvet. In your mind, open the lid. Put some of the items we are going to discuss inside your tool box and keep it in a safe place in your mind. Whenever you feel threats to your well-being, open it and take out the tool best suited to your situation. Choose from the following tools; Self Talk, Perception, Visualization, Imagination, Music, Pet Therapy, Mindfulness, Meditation, Relaxation, Prayer, and Nature,
“C’mon inner peace I don’t have all day!” Are you in your own way? Be mindful of your self talk. Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love. Be gentle with yourself. Be kind. Do things for yourself ahead of time. Be loving. The conversation you have with yourself is the most important conversation you will ever have. I cannot stress this enough.
The Three Ps of Pain
Consider the three Ps of pain. There is Past pain, Present pain, and Perceived pain. The most difficult of these is perceived pain. If you cannot change the event of circumstance that is causing you pain then change your perception of it. Just tweak it a little bit. Re-script, in your head, how you tell it to yourself. Try staying in the positive. Rather than telling yourself this pain med is not working, try saying this pain med is working well and my knee, hip, head feels better. I can do this. You might have to say it out loud a few times, but it works!
Perception is Key
During the nineteen sixties, NASA did some experiments with athletes. They sat them in a dark room and hooked them up to EEG machines to measure brain activity. Then they asked them to imagine when they heard a bang that it was the starting pistol and they were to run their race in their minds. After it was over and the scientists examined the waveforms they found that the nerves that would have fired, had they been physically running the race, fired in all the right places when a race was merely imagined. It was concluded that the nervous system does not know the difference between imagined action and real action. It responds either way. Change your perception; change your life.
Visualize a different situation or an alternative outcome to the one you are facing. Vince Lombardi, arguably the greatest football coach of all time, only allowed players to watch replays of successful runs over and over. His positive visualization techniques turned the Green Bay Packers into the most dominating NFL team in the nineteen sixties. All champion athletes visualize. What you practice you become.
Imagination is the greatest gift of all. We imagined ourselves to be doing what we now do with our lives and here we are doing it. Use it to imagine wonderful things for yourself and your loved ones for your future, Hold on to your dreams because as long as you have a dream you have hope. No one else needs to believe in it or even know about it. Keep it safe inside your tool box.
There is not a single human culture on earth that has lived without music. Music can lower stress levels and enhance moods. Physicians report faster recovery time for patients listening to music in hospital rooms. Music can help draw on old memories and neurological patterns due to the fact that rhythm and sounds of music can stay in the core of the mind for a long time allowing people with some sort of brain damage to regain partial or full access to memories. Actors like Johnny Depp play music while filming to get into character.
The Mayo Clinic believes that pet therapy is helping people recover from a variety of health problems, such as heart disease, cancer and mental health disorders. Animal therapy has been shown to reduce pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue in people suffering from health problems. Many hospitals and nursing homes have regular pet therapy visits. Animals owners report good outcomes for patients, families and staff members. They claim to have seen lots of smiling faces. Studies have shown that closing you eyes for ten minutes with your hand over your heart and thinking about your pet can reduce heart rate and blood pressure.
Recent research by the University of British Columbia provides strong evidence that practicing non-judgmental, present-moment awareness (aka Mindfulness), changes the brain. When you pay attention to your breathing, to sounds, to the present moment experience, it shuts cognition down. Your senses become enhanced. Gray matter in the frontal cortex, associated with working memory and decision making, is enhanced.
Ancient meditation focused on transcending emotions to live in a calm present state. It is an umbrella term similar to the Western world’s version of yoga. It can involve a lot of techniques to reach a heightened level of consciousness. UCLA studies found that meditation may increase gray matter in the brain. It can cultivate positive emotions and increase focus and control. Consistent thought patterns can lead to changes and even develop new brain wiring pathways. Meditation is associated with decreased stress, depression and anxiety. It has been shown to decrease pain and insomnia and increase quality of life.
Relaxation comes in many forms and is mainly a matter of personal taste. For some the best form of relaxation comes from sitting back on the couch and watching a movie. For others it might be getting lost in a good novel. Swimming is an excellent means of stretching out the muscles and releasing tension. Board games and card games are a fun way of distracting a seriously overworked brain. Jumping on a bicycle or gong for a walk or run are alternative forms of relaxation also. Any kind of physical activity releases tension in an overworked mind.
Take a hike! Get out into nature. Walk or drive to a local park and sit under a tree for a while. Let the healing attributes of nature take your blues away. Trees are said to be the lungs of the earth. They soak up and absorb poor quality air and run it through the filters of their leaves and branches to replace it with clean, fresh air. Go to the beach and let the ocean’s healing powers hypnotize your thoughts rushing in and away. Let go of the tension.
Many, many people turn to prayer and positive intentions for solace in times of need. Keeping an open dialogue with a higher power is of great comfort for many. For some there is history in that prayer dates back to childhood and strengthens feelings of family and belonging. It can be our best connection to the past or to the future. It connects us to those we love when we hold positive intentions in our mind and think of that person we love and cherish. Love is what makes everything OK. There is nothing wrong with showering your own self with some of that love. Love yourself.
The enduring Human Spirit fascinates me. We are not bodies with a spirit attached somehow. We are spirits living with a body and yet our spirit is not found in anatomy. A surgeon cannot cut flesh open and point out the spirit beside any of the organs, yet we are spiritual beings. Our spirit is raw life source, indestructible, universal energy. Physicists will say that energy cannot ever be destroyed. Just think of that for a moment.
Take Care of Yourself
What ever yourself means to you all of the other aspects of your life rely on your personal well being. You need to be nurtured, respected, included, cared for, and loved by you. Take Care of Yourself.