08 December, 2019
Being in a continuous cycle of stress is dangerous to your health. It wears you down. There is no recovery. It makes you susceptible to getting sick in the short term, but it can also affect your health in the long term as well. There are many documented lifestyle diseases associated with stress starting with hypertension, heart disease, obesity and diabetes, and many forms of cancer. It affects how you sleep, what you eat, and the rhythm of your day. It may increase the amount of alcohol you drink, or start smoking. You may start looking to various medications to relieve your stress. It can have a tally on your relationships with family, friends and coworkers. This is the sympathetic nervous system at work. You are in a confused state because you don't know whether to fight or run.
It is in this stage that you need to be proactive and take control of your health. You are not a victim. You do have options even in the worst of circumstances. This may not fix the problem but will allow you to step back and maybe look at the reasons for your stress from a different angle. Here I want to present some options for your consideration.
First is breaking the cycle, even for a short period of 10 or 15 minutes, and initiate the parasympathetic nervous system where the damage caused by the sympathetic nervous system can be brought down and healing can begin. As mentioned in my earlier blog, focus on your breathing, then get away from the area, take a walk. Get outside and get some fresh air, find some nature and focus on it. Focus on your breathing, sit down and look up into the trees. Focus on the finer details created by nature, a branch, a twig, a bud, the leaves themselves or the colours within the tree. You could also focus on the clouds in the sky or the grass below you. Things you probably take for granted.
If it's appropriate, consider your problem and whether it's something that could be broken down into more manageable bites. Could you create a list of these and determine if some could be completed more easily than others. Many people are the victim of poor time management skills, thereby making everything overwhelming. Seeing it written down kills the dragon, and allows you to get organized and prioritize what is important and what is not.
Another issue is people tend to live too much of their lives in the future of "What if..." You have no clear way of knowing if what you're thinking would actually happen and it's a lot of wasted energy trying to predict the unknown. The only thing you know for certain is what is happening right now. Be proactive with what you do know and take the control of which way the future will go.
And if you can't fix the problem, consider the consciences of not fulfilling what you couldn't do. What would be the worst case scenario? Is there any way to ask for help, or talk it out with someone who can give you another perspective. Could you negotiate for more time? Delegate?
Whatever your source of stress, this may hurt, but look at the big picture. How will this affect you tomorrow, in 2 days, a week or anytime down the road? Your only survival option is to be proactive and refuse to be the victim. Take responsibility for your actions. You have more power than you think you do, you just need to tap into in. That power is your family and friends. It can also be your dog or cat. They will help you activate your parasympathetic nervous system and that could be all you need to clear your head.
Consider these options for activating your parasympathetic nervous system: Walking, jogging, running or biking in a park or by the water; meditation with a clear mind; aromatherapy in a quiet space; yoga; working out; group fitness; cardio; massage; facial, getting your hair cut; doing something mundane like the laundry, washing the dishes, or ironing; working on your favourite hobby; gardening and weeding; meeting with friends. As long as you enjoy the activity, it will help.
I admit this isn't a one size fits all solution to the magnitude of issues each of us go through every day. But in a lot of cases, it's by choice for failing to be proactive at the start (knowledge is power), or over committing to more than you could realistically manage and then feeling trapped. Control the problem. Don't let the problem control you.
As a personal trainer with skills in nutrition and stress management, I'm here to help you overcome these obstacles in your life. Contact me if you'd like more information.