It can affect our minds and bodies, giving us aches and pains, cause life threatening diseases such as cancer, reduce our brain’s ability to function and generally make our lives a misery.
The following shows you the causes, effects and solutions to this our modern burden of stress and anxiety and how to live a Stress Free Life.
Root cause of most illnesses and disease
Chronic stress, that is ongoing, never ending stressful situations such as a bullying boss, the daily commute, an abusive partner etc. etc. means that your body is getting constant exposure to stress hormones such as Cortisol and Adrenalin.
Now these hormones are essential if you are dealing with the threat of imminent danger. In the past it might be a Sabre tooth tiger attacking from a bush; so these hormones would help us to either fight the tiger or run very very fast away from the dangerous situation; and after the danger had gone, our hormones would return to normal and our body would regain homeostasis – the healthy balance of hormones.
Fortunately, these days, most of us aren’t in such a life threatening situation; instead we have the ongoing daily stressors as described above; so we have the fight or flight stimulus continuously and, sometimes, the added affect of “freeze”.
Are you frozen?
If your reaction to actually doing something about your stressful situation – say looking for and finding a new job to leave the one that’s not working for you – is to talk yourself out of it and stay within your comfort zone, no matter how uncomfortable it is, then the chances are that you are in the third state of flight or fight, which is freeze.
It just seems too dangerous to take a leap into the unknown. Your boss may be a bully, who seems to single you out for unfair criticism, but at least he hasn’t fired you yet, so you’ll just keep your head down and hope he finds someone else to pick on.
When you get home, you soothe yourself with distractions – TV, browsing the net, binge eating and drinking – they’re all self soothers that take your mind off your immediate problems and slow down the flow of the stress hormones that give you palpitations or even physical aches and pains.
Watching TV has been proven to slow down brain activity to less than it has whilst doing absolutely nothing.
How to unfreeze.
The two things we can do may seem like polar opposites, but they will complement each other perfectly.
- The first one is to relax; not with the obvious soothers, as already mentioned, but with conscious actions which will help you to let go of all those unpleasant and damaging thoughts and activities.
- Our brains make neural pathways which form our habits, so that we can live our lives on auto. Our brains like this; the habits we have formed are safe ones, tried and tested to keep us away from danger, and that is what our brains try to do – keep us alive and safe.
- But to live the life we want to, we have to think mindfully; to be able to evaluate our daily lives and options for improvement, and to do this we have to do things which change our mental mindset and our physical physiology.
- The two things which can do this are meditation and any physical exercise that floats your boat. You can just pound the streets jogging, go to the gym, do a YouTube workout, or you can try something new such as yoga, chi gong, pilates or any other similar activities.
- The physical act of exercise will change your hormonal balance; it will reduce the stress hormones of cortisol and adrenalin and increase the feelgood hormones of serotonin and endorphins. It may seem odd to say that exercise will relax you, but because the stress hormones are lessened it will have a knock on effect to eliminating the tension in your muscles.
- The mental and emotional effects of meditation will put you in control of your own mind. Techniques such as the Silva Method are easy to learn and implement and will have an incredible effect on how you think and feel in your daily life.
- There are also guided meditations on YouTube, all totally free, and a great beginners’ introduction to the joyful benefits of meditation; just lie there and listen; the pictures they paint in your mind will change your brain vibrations and stop you thinking about what you did today and what you need to do tomorrow. We all need a break from the thoughts that go through our minds on a daily basis.
- The second one is to take action. Once you have learned how to let go, you can start planning how to change your thinking, to become the person you wish to become and have the life of your dreams.
- Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Well I’m here to tell you that it is all in your grasp. Every action starts with a thought. Everything we use – every invention – started with a thought and then an action.I
- If you’ve always wanted to be a You Tuber or a Personal Trainer for example, go onto YouTube and see how they do what they do. Look online for any free tuition that could get you started as a Personal Trainer. If you look, you will always find something that will take you closer to your dream and, if you take one step a day closer to what you want, logically you must eventually get there. The old saying of “every journey of a thousand miles starts with one step” has to be true.
- This mixture of physical, emotional and mental activities is called “oscillation”. If you do them in sequence it will help your mind and body to work better; so for instance, at the weekend, you could go for a jog first thing in the morning or, if the weather is inclement, a YouTube 20 minute workout in the lounge. This would be your physical activity. Then, when you finish that, you might do your emotional mind healing activity of meditation; and the final one would be a learning one. It doesn’t have to be a university course; just the act of reading a magazine on a subject you would never normally follow would suffice.
- Using oscillation will stimulate your mind and body in a positive way, give you good things to think about, and make you feel generally good in yourself. Variety of thought is the key to helping our brains function optimally.
- How do you feel about yourself? Are you a winner or a loser? Are you kind or mean? Are you generous or stingy? Your self-image is a massive part of your human experience; you can be what you decide you will be. If you say “That’s just the way I am” then nothing is going to change. If you settle with being your worst self, then you are bound to be stressed and tense.
- Instead, just small daily acts of kindness will make you feel good; if you are driving along a dual carriageway and you see someone waiting to come out of a side road, pull out and let them in. If you are at the checkout of the supermarket with your full weekly shop and the person behind you only has one or two items, let them go in front of you. What you give out comes back to you, and doing these things will boost your own self-esteem.
The mind is a party pooper.
It took billions of years for humans to develop into the amazing creatures that we are now. We are the highest form of intelligence on this planet and it is this intelligence that gives us most of our problems. If we allow our higher selves to run our lives, we can solve these problems, but all too often we are on auto and it’s our base selves that run the show.
If we aren’t careful, our minds will run us instead of the other way around. You can’t shut it up, but you can work with the mind to guide it to positivity. You can teach it to back off from and not respond to negative stimuli, not to engage with it, not to get angry about stupid things, and to release the emotions connected to that situation.
There is a really good book by Michael Singer called “The Untethered Soul” that shows us how to do this. The book gives us useful tools, shows us mental exercises and affirmations that will train the mind to honor and respect reality, allow others to be how they are (if they want to drive at 40 mph in a 60 zone, that’s their business, not ours).
Once we get it right, we can enjoy the party.
One evening, an elderly Cherokee Chief told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between the two wolves inside us all. One wolf is evil. It is angry, envious, jealous, sorrowful, regretful, greedy, arrogant, self-pitying, guilty, inferior, dishonest, prideful, superior, and egoic. The other wolf in this battle is good. He is joyful, peaceful, loving, hopeful, serene, humble, kind, benevolent, empathic, generous, honest, compassionate, and faithful.
The Grandson says “which wolf wins”, and the Grandfather answers “The one we feed”.
Which one will you feed?
The moral of this story is that we are what we think and feel. We can either let life press our buttons, making us anxious and stressed, or we can choose our own path. Buddha says that most human anxiety comes from fighting that which is outside of our control.
So we can learn to choose how we react to certain situations. If we get cut up in traffic, we can either chase the culprit and honk our horns, or we can wonder what’s in their heads to make them act that way. Are they really late for something important or have they just had an almighty row with their other half? Either way, it’s nothing to do with us and we’re better off just pulling back so we don’t end up feeling worse than they do.
Mary Morrissey from www.bravethinkinginstitute.com is a brilliant resource. She has a publication called “Stronger than Circumstance” that you can download for free from the website. It contains amazing insights into how we think and act and what we can do about it. A very compelling piece of reading which could change your life forever.
Here’s to a stress free, productive and joyous life.