Why You Must Beat Stress Before It Beats You

Stress -Why you must beat stress

Written by Alan Anderson

“80% of workers surveyed feel stress on the job.”-Dr Paul Rosch, AIS

Stress May be Killing You!

Stress may be killing you.  This may seem melodramatic, but chronic stress nearly killed me. It almost ruined my life and it seems that I am not alone. Not only is it estimated to cost U.S industry more than $300 billion per year in absenteeism, staff turn-over and diminished productivity, but it also impacts medical, legal and insurance costs. (Dr. Paul Rosch- AIS)

We live in the world where our bodies and minds are constantly bombarded by high workloads, information overload and huge financial pressures. In fact, I often meet people who are completely stressed-out. Most noteworthy is that very few know how to manage or reduce its negative impact on their health.

Left unchecked, this can lead to reduced levels of energy, concentration and alertness. Also, it can directly impact our ability to perform at work and function effectively in many areas of life.

We all have a natural mental and physiological response mechanism designed to keep us safe and is often referred to as the “fight or flight response”. Generally, it is when this fight or flight response gets out of balance that it can have a major negative impact on our health.

When we perceive danger, the fight or flight response floods our body with hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These prepare our body to either fight to survive or to run for safety, hence the name ‘fight or flight response’.

This safety response is designed to instantly transform us into a state of peak performance. That was perfect when we were all hunter gatherers living in caves and had to deal with dangerous animals in our territory.

Today, many people live with such massive workloads and with such a hectic pace of life, they become stuck in a constant state of fight or flight. It is this out of control response that can created havoc in my own life.

Stress -Confusion

No Confusion

The media unfortunately creates some confusion around this issue. This confusion comes from the fact that we need a baseline of stress to maintain our focus, alertness and motivation. However, it is when the fight or flight response is out of control that problems occur.

Let’s look at an analogy that may make this process clearer by imagining for one moment that your body is an automobile.

Well managed stress would be where you drive down the freeway at the prescribed speed.  Then, every few hours you pull over and give your vehicle and the driver (your mind) a good rest. In-order to keep everything running well you check the oil and take it to the auto shop for a full check-up at regular intervals.

The opposite would be when you drive on the freeway every day at full speed.  Every so often you push the Turbo-Boost button to double or treble your normal top speed. You are so busy driving at full speed and recovering from the impact of using the Turbo boost button that you don’t get time to give your vehicle the regular check-ups and maintenance it needs.

If you drove your real automobile like this, you would very soon see the impact. At some stage, your vehicle would either crash or break down. Just like this automobile analogy, we cannot afford to run our body and mind at full speed every day without expecting a negative outcome.

We must find ways to remove the impact of the fight and flight response and replace it regularly with its opposite, which is our natural deep relaxation response.

Positive Action

Reducing the impact of this overload is vital to our survival, health and well-being. The key to switching off this out of control fight or flight response is to find practical ways to induce its opposite state. The opposite state is the ‘deep relaxation response’, which is where all our body’s natural rejuvenation processes take place.

Stress - Busy

Are You in Control?

Here are some of the critical questions you need to ask yourself about your own lifestyle. Do you live your life with the throttle wide open all the time? Is your stress well managed or could it be out of control? How can you tell the difference?

If you are not sure where you stand, the simple answer is to look at the following list of common symptoms which may give you an indication…

  • Regularly feeling very tired?
  • Uncontrollable mood swings?
  • Sleep problems?
  • Difficult to concentrate during the day?
  • Struggling to stay motivated?
  • Regular stomach upsets?
  • Have you increased your use of alcohol, cigarettes or food?
  • Are you more forgetful than usual?
  • Do you find it difficult to release built up tension in your muscles?
  • Are you more aggressive towards others?
  • Has your general health and well-being declined?

If you have answered yes to more than one of these questions, you may need to look at how you can manage your stress more effectively. The longer you leave this fight and flight response out of control, the more impact it can have on your health and well-being.

We all want to live a healthy life with our stress under control. We certainly don’t want to suffer from many of the stress related illnesses that plague our modern world. The critical issue is therefore how we can learn to switch off the fight or flight response and switch into our deep relaxation response?

Below are five of the most effective and well documented methods that I used to reduce stress and improve my health and well-being.

Deep Breathing

The simple act of sitting quietly and focusing your attention on your breathing and feeling it slow down can help to gently induce your deep relaxation response. When you feel overwhelmed, simply stop what you are doing and take five to ten gentle deep breaths. This allows your mind to shift focus on to your breath as it enters and leaves your nostrils. Through this simple mindfulness exercise, you become aware of the slowing of your breath and the calming of your mind. Mindfulness is covered in more depth in the next section.

Mindfulness

Using mindfulness exercises can be a great way to shift your mind stress that builds up during the day. Mindfulness exercises are great because they can be used at any time. They allow us to shift our focus away from thinking and ontoo what is happening now. It is this state shift that lessens the impact of thoughts that create stress.

We therefore have easy access to a calm and focused mind by using mindfulness for only a few minutes. This makes mindfulness a great way to recover our mental balance at any time of the day. You can even do it while sitting at your desk, which makes it the most flexible of all these techniques. I will be writing more about mindfulness in future posts.

Stress- PMR Cloud

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

The most widely accepted method for reducing muscle tension is Progressive Muscle Relaxation or P.M.R. It is a great way of relaxing before trying to sleep and for inducing deep relaxation. As the name suggests, P.M.R involves progressively tensing and relaxing each set of muscles in your body to release muscle tension. I will be posting more about P.M.R in the future.

Sound Induced Relaxation

Have you ever noticed how certain slow or chill music can help you feel relaxed? Sound induced relaxation is a great way of calming your mind and body. You may find it useful to build up a playlist of your favorite chill tracks.

Taking time out to listen to chill music for 10 to 15 minutes can be a powerful way of relaxing your mind and body. I use my own chill tracks to relax before trying to sleep at night. It is also a powerful way of winding down after a stressful day. To find out more about sound induced relaxation you may want to read more about our brainwaves alpha beta theta and delta.

Stress- meditation

Meditation

Meditation is one of the most well researched stress reduction methods which is now widely used in the West as a technique for improving health and well-being.

Simple breath watching meditation has been the most positive impact on every aspect of my life. It has allowed me to reap many of the health benefits attributed to meditation practice. For more information about simple breath watching meditation for health,  look inside my book on Amazon – ‘How to Meditate for Beginners’. 

You may also wish to visit www.makemeditationeasy.com for more information on meditation for beginners.

 

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