Stress, sadly it is a big part of everyday life. We all learn to deal with it in our own ways, let us understand a little about stress and what effects it has on our bodies and minds.
Stress, in its most basic definition, is a very natural phenomenon. If you were out in the woods and saw a bear, you would be stressed and therefore be reduced to fight or flight response. The difference being, you’d either getaway and the stress would subside, or you would lose your life. In our world of modern convenience and responsibility, we are subjected to a stress that seems to have no end. While seemingly horrid when you are a slave to its power, this mutation of nature offers us a great opportunity and deep lesson in self-mastery. For if you can overcome stress in this most trying of times, there is no limit to the power of your will. Humanity comes from a long history as Hunters and Gatherers, leaving much leisure time and not many reasons to worry about the day today. Overstimulated and full of worry is where many of us find ourselves, leading to being unhealthy, not sleeping well, and into a deeper hole of pharmaceuticals to mask the problem.
Many people are intimidated by thinking about meditation. Feeling like there is some kind of expectation to be had. The purpose of meditation is purposeless. One can take a meditative road towards an understood spiritual goal, but it is also an easy and lovely way to escape the world, get in touch with the inner you, and regroup and re-energize. One of the main causes of stress is what is called by some as the “monkey mind”. Notice that internal voice that just chatters away all day, criticizing yourself and others, burdening you with worry about things past or improbable futures? Meet the monkey mind, we need to shut him up! How do we do it? Breathing. Yup, breathing. One of the by-products of stress is shallow breathing. This prevents full oxygenation of the blood, creates bad posture, and weakens the body. Deep breaths, always. It is just a matter of training, but deep breathing has a natural effect on reducing stress and quieting down the mind.
Any form of exercise will significantly reduce stress. While it is very beneficial for the body to be challenged with exercise, it also raises hormone levels that lead to psychological well-being. When you think exercise, I don’t mean going to the gym every day for hours on end. This is actually harmful to your body, and at that point becomes a stress factor as opposed to a remedy. Walking in the woods, yoga, Chi Kung, and sex are all great physical activities that are proven to help the body and mind relax.
That’s right, creativity. Whether you own being an artist in some way, humans are all deeply creative and artistic. It is a way to process, a way to make contact with the abstract and other dimensions. I have found that people that do not have a creative outlet; whether it be painting, playing an instrument, dancing or writing, tend to be much more stressed than those that do. Don’t say, “oh I could never be an artist” because just by being human you are. What have you always wanted to do? Well then, start on a course towards doing it. Remember, no one is expecting you to be Da Vinci or Shakespeare, simply express your inner truth or your inner pain. Anything that needs out.
Takes breaks from technology and noise.
Coming back to the over-stimulated side of the cause of stress. Take a step back and think about how invasive technology has become. Just like we need alone time and space from even our most loved ones, we need to take some time away from the grid. Turn off the computers, phones, television. Grab a good book, a real book with paper people. Or even better, shut it all down and snuggle up with your partner, stress relief all around. And I cannot recommend highly enough trying to really get into the wilderness away from all power lines and cell service when you can. There is nothing like the feeling of completely detoxifying from our modern world.
From the ground.
Many foods and herbs can help you to reduce stress naturally, without the use of poisonous pharmaceuticals. Simply changing your caffeine source from coffee to a nice loose leaf tea can make a substantial difference. Both have caffeine, but the way it is metabolized by the body is different. Coffee creates a more jittery anxious state, whereas even drinking a lot of tea with make you alert but also more calm and mindful. I recommend investing in a nice diffuser teacup and some loose Oolong as a great trade for coffee. A great herb for reducing stress and also helps ward off the blues is Damiana. This is readily available at many health food stores and has been quite effective for several close friends.
These things used in conjunction can create some real changes in stress levels, but like all things, you get what you put in. There are no miracle cures, but the work is well worth it and all the more gratifying because of the empowerment found in doing it oneself.
Lastly, one of the biggest sources of stress comes from us being way too hard on ourselves. You are not bad, you are not flawed. We are all evolving towards perfection. Own your choices, do your best but also be compassionate to yourself and let go worrying about anything you cannot change and you will have cut the head off of the dragon.