We all experience it.
You know when you're stressed.
Perhaps your head is foggy, your temper is short, your stomach hurts, you get headaches, you can't fall asleep and/or stay asleep, your digestion gets wonky, you get sick, you miss deadlines, you are distracted, you say something to someone that you don't mean... the list goes on and on.
Whether it's a family thing, a work thing, a world event, your health, or a personal crisis, it doesn't matter. The impact stress has on you is profound and there's a variety of things you must do to manage this.
Notice I didn't say "a variety of things you can do," but rather MUST do. Your health, the well-being of your family, and all of those around you depend on you managing your stress. A society of people without the tools to manage stress is a terrifying reality, but it's a crisis we are all in right now.
Stress is not something that happens to you. Stress is something your body, mind, and spirit are experiencing in response. We can not control the things that happen to or around us, but we can control our response. We actually have immense control.
That fire that burns inside you when you feel stressed is real. Every single system in your body is reacting. Yes, literally every system. You see, humans are not wired for the ongoing stress we experience. Our bodies are designed beautifully to handle acute stress that elevates and then subsides. When you need to mobilize quickly (your child is running towards the street or you need to swerve your car to avoid another), your hormones, neurotransmitters, limbs, heart, and head all react quickly to handle the situation at hand. This can also work well for short-term situations that have an end in sight.
It is this chronic bombardment of stimulus that we are not built for.
We are designed for survival. When your stress hormones fire and send messages to your brain to mobilize, that's survival. Nothing else in your body matters other than survival. Your digestion isn't important. Your reproductive system takes the back burner. Your ability to focus on anything other than the survival task is irrelevant. Your sympathetic nervous system, known for fight or flight response, is all that matters. Your parasympathetic nervous system, also called "rest and digest" is not at the forefront.
And what happens as a community when we we are just wired for survival, but bombarded with stress chronically? We forget about our village. We forget about the bigger picture. We lose sight of the joy and simplicity around us. Most of all, we lose the tools to support ourselves.
So, what then can you do to support yourself?
- Lower your exposure. Recognize that the news, Facebook, or constantly talking about the circumstance that causes you stress could be making it worse. Take a break and breath.
- Recognize your signs. Are you stressed right now? What is going on in your body and mind? What typically happens to you? Take a minute right now as you're reading this to note your signs and symptoms of stress so that you can catch them in the future. Common ones include:
- disrupted sleep
- short temper
- digestive upset
- lowered sex drive
- inability to focus
- skin breakouts
- low energy
- getting sick
- muscle tension
- Name it and own it. It helps to own the fact that you're in survival mode. We are stressed, but continually expose ourselves to situations that cause us more stress. We take on additional responsibility, we say yes to social commitments, and we decide that something just has to be done whatever the cost. By acknowledging and naming the fact that you are an acute state of stress, you can
- Know that you have control. You can control your thoughts. You can control your response to events. This is yours and you own it.
Stay tuned for additional posts with more practical tips on how to support your stress response with an integrative approach through lifestyle changes, food, herbs, supplements, and essential oils.
Now, please share how you handle stress? What are your symptoms and what works for you?