Yes I said it.. stress sucks! But it doesn't have to rule your life.
Stress generates hormones that trigger your body’s “fight or flight” response (via your adrenals). Your heart races, your breath quickens, and your muscles ready for action. This response was designed to protect your body in an emergency by preparing you to react quickly... like being chased by a tiger who wants to eat you! But the problem today is we allow so many things to stress us out, and when the stress response keeps firing, over and over, day after day, it wreaks havoc on our health.
We can’t always eliminate our sources of stress, so a better plan is to learn to control how we react to them, and how to support our sympathetic nervous system, in order to open up healing pathways (more on this in a future post).
We've all heard the expression "don't sweat the small stuff". But I say it's not about big stuff verses small stuff. The yard stick I prefer is "what CAN I change?" Because if you can change it you can change how it affects you. Turn a negative into a positive, a stressor into an opportunity. The rest... well if you can't change it, why sweat it?
Try this simple exercise and let me know if you found it helpful.
- Take a piece of paper and divide it into 3 columns (for the computer-savvy, you can do this in Word).
- Title one column “Things I CAN Change”, title another “Things I HAVE Changed” and then another “Things I CANNOT Change”
- Think back on your thoughts, feelings, and events that have happened. Add them to the appropriate columns.
- When you are finished, tear off the last column “Things I CANNOT change”. Read it out loud starting with the title, then crumple it up and throw it away. FAR away.
- Each morning look at the remaining lists. Allow yourself to feel really good about things you have changed – those are to be celebrated! Next, focus on the things you CAN change, and make that the day’s priority.
- Redo this exercise as often as you need to, because change doesn’t happen overnight. Be as kind, patient, gentle and forgiving of yourself as you would be of those you love.
Another tool I've found very useful to relieve stress is Qigong.
Qigong (pronounced chi-gong) is a gentler martial art that incorporates movements to open energy flow, promote relaxation and facilitate healing. There are many different styles depending what you would like to get out of it – relief from back pain, releasing stress, getting limber, exercise, and more. If you would like to learn more about Qigong, here are some links to a YouTube channel by Qigong For Vitality. This is one of many great resources online, free and easy to follow.
Exercise of any kind will always be my favourite stress reliever. Exercise releases "feel good" hormones that can lift our mood in addition to its many physical health benefits. Group fitness has even greater value, as it gives us the opportunity to make new friends or just chat with others, and burn off that stress in a positive, energetic environment.
Above all, remember you are not in this alone. Reach out to friends and loved ones, let them know if you just need to vent. Seek professional counselling if you need to. Sometimes just speaking things out loud can help us find clarity.
2021 will be the year for new beginnings. Let's start it off right - together.
Cheers to your health,
Tammy Mc Donald, CNP, CPT