The Mess with Stress: Why we need to relax

We live in a fascinating time. We are seeing technological advances that have dramatically improved our healthcare, daily conveniences, transportation and even communication. While many of these things are beneficial, they are also becoming increasingly destructive. Destructive in the sense that when you delve into the effects of too much stimulus and the fast pace we are now expected to maintain, our health is beginning to suffer.

Fast food, fast cars, fast Internet, fast replies…the list goes on. While most common conveniences were invented to give us more time, it’s interesting that it seems it is the one thing most people complain about not having enough of. Case in point, electronics.

The computer was first developed with the hopes to bring a modern convenience to an otherwise time consuming activity. Driving down to the library to research topics, walking over to a friend’s house to ask a favor, calling a relative to write down a recipe for a casserole, all became things of the past.

Once we had the world at our fingertips, wouldn’t a normal assumption be that you would find the time you’d been missing in your day to achieve something you’d rather be doing?

I think what the computer did for us and what hand-held devices continue to do for us, is show us a world that is growing at lightning speed. If your day consisted of walking the dog, throwing a Frisbee, attending a farmer’s market, making dinner and ending the day with reading a book, wouldn’t you feel guilty or unproductive? That day would be considered a day of leisure, which is lazy or what we perceive as lazy.

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Instead, we wake up to electronics telling us what others are doing around the world, where we should invest our money, how we should dress for the day, what we should eat that day, how much money we should be making, and what to do to create an ideal body. If you are not working long hours, raising 2.5 kids, have a well-trained dog, doting spouse, organic garden, work out at the gym, all while coming home to a beautifully kept 3.5 bedroom house with your luxury car parked in the driveway-you are not meeting society’s ideal.

Reality shows, social media, and the contents of magazines and most newspapers all give in to this “ideal life” which if you were emulating, really wouldn’t feel ideal at all. This is where the topic of stress comes in.

S T R E S S. Find me one person that is not or has not been stressed in their lifetime. Reality is, it is not only common it is normal to be stressed. We put so much pressure on ourselves, we feel it from our jobs and society, and continue to live in a constant state of never measuring up.

 

Where along the line did this become the standard? It seems counterproductive to stress through traffic to get to a Yoga class, only to stress through class thinking about what to make for dinner. This is what we do though.

We have it, but what is stress?

Simply put, it’s a reaction to a stimulus (project at work, traffic on the freeway, working out hard at the gym) that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium.

Think of a calm body of water, the surface is untouched and resembles glass. Now drop a small leaf on top of the water. The ripples caused by the leaf touching the surface represents a reaction, much like stress, to the brain or in this metaphor the body of water. In some instances, stress is actually a good thing.

Humans were created to handle stress, if you think back to hunter/gatherer days, running from a wild animal would produce stress in the body. In this case, a hormone such as adrenaline would be released to give the perceived energy and strength to the human to escape a negative fate. This is the kind of stress that helps jump start our metabolism, sending reactions throughout the body including endorphins, making us feel a natural high. Creating this kind of “good stress” by sprinting on the treadmill, conquering extreme heights, or jumping into freezing water is beneficial to the body in this way.

The type of stress that is not healthy, and the kind that is most common today, is the chronic stress we place on our minds that releases the hormone cortisol throughout the body. Cortisol tricks us into holding onto unwanted fat, maxes out our adrenal glands, and blurs the communication from our brain to rest of the body.

Imagine a day like the following: you miss a deadline at work, get stuck in a broken elevator only to miss your bus home, get caught walking home in the rain, come home to your dog going the bathroom in the house because of your lateness. Days like this cause you to grab a fast fix that will temporarily make you “feel better”. Sugar, alcohol, binge watching shows, all things you may convince yourself will help wash away the pressures of the day are actually things that will make the situation worse.

Instead of feeding our bodies with immediate satisfaction that will make us crash, zap energy, and feed our fat stores, we should try for nourishing things that will feed our minds, bodies and souls.

For example; after a day like the one I just described, grab a raincoat, take the dog out and walk a few miles in the rain.

Take in the beauty of everything wet, in a state you might not always see the city in and notice the sounds around you of everyone ending their days and settling in for the night. Pass by a local food stand or store and pick up something healthy and different to add to your dinner. Bright, fresh produce can be prepared in an exotic way to satisfy both your craving for something comforting and for vitamins and minerals your body needs to combat the stress hormones that have been surging after the day you had. Come home and light some candles, put soft music on while you prepare dinner, and treat yourself to a long luxurious bath or shower. End the day curled up under a blanket, sipping tea and reading a good book.

All these things are preparing your body to go in to a long a productive sleep, where you body will begin repairing the damage done throughout the stressful day and refresh and recharge you so you are prepared to take on the next day with a nourished and rested mind and body. Once there is balance between your mind and body, there is a feeling of contentment in your soul. Sometimes we just need to slow down and unplug, it’s ok to just be.

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What sort of things do you do to relax?

 

Peace and calming thoughts to you!

 

<3 Megan

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