By: Dr. Divi Chandna, MD, CCFP, Certified Medical Intuitive, Head of College of Mind Body Spirit Medicine
The American Medical Association says that 85-90% of all illnesses are directly related to emotional, mental & physical stress. Studies also show that 90% of visits to the family doctor are for reasons linked to stress in our lives. If stress is a true cause to our bodies’ ailments, then what can we do?
What is stress?
Stress has many different definitions. We can think of stress as a condition in which we feel unsafe or worried or in fear. Most of us can think of definite instances in our lives that we may have felt ‘stressed out.’
As society has evolved, we are now seeing higher rates of chronic stress. There is chronic worry, fear, uncertainty that is crippling people.
If stress is related to disease, this would explain why over the years the percentages of illness is actually rising and not falling. With the advent of greater science and more research, we should theoretically becoming a healthier society but in fact the opposite is true.
Why does it happen?
Most people have heard that with stress comes a physiological change in the body that triggers what is called “the stress response”.
The stress response or the fight or flight mechanism occurs instantly when we are feeling an emotion that the mind perceives as stressful or fearful.
Fight or flight causes a cascade of events to occur in the body.
This includes: higher heart rate, increased blood pressure, a rise in the breathing rate, pupil dilation, decreased stomach / gastrointestinal functioning, decreased
erectile functioning, increased anxiety, increased perspiration, increased muscle contraction amongst others.
What can we do?
The first step is to recognize that this is happening. Stress is a result of the mind’s perception of an event. As humans we have choice. Everything we do in our lives is a choice. We can choose to react one way or another to any event. This is the beautiful thing about being human. We can make conscious choice.
Most of us are not taught this as children and we then become conditional responders. As soon as an event occurs, we have patterned ways of being and we immediately respond to life’s ups and downs. Ultimately, this causes levels of stress that plague us.
With some work and awareness we can change this. We can choose how we respond and we can then shift our life dramatically & heal ourselves from the inside out. This journey is mental & emotional and is truly transformational as we become who we truly are meant to be on the planet!
10 Steps to Unwind Daily Stress
How do we start? These ten steps will get you started on this journey!
Our breath is our connection with life. We can choose how deep and slow we breathe. Most of us pay no attention to our breath as it is happening all the time. Our body automatically breathes and this keeps us alive. Taking deep, slow, belly breaths has been studied to be the antidote to the fight or flight mechanism in our body. Deep belly-breathing can shift us out of the sympathetic nervous system over-drive and put us into the calming parasympathetic nervous system.
Most people laugh only intermittently. Laughter actually slows down the conscious worried mind and lets us truly be in the moment. Find any reason to laugh today and every day. Laughter is contagious and life-giving!
Regular exercise is very well studied to be an antidote to stress. Exercise has many physiological benefits but also calms the mind tremendously. Choosing something you love to do – running, hiking, swimming, biking, kick boxing, soccer or any sport will help you to feel mentally and physically better.
4. Fresh Air
As a result of our busy lives, many of us can live indoors. We have car-ports, cars, underground walk-ways and more. These conveniences of life have made our lives easier in many ways but can lead to less outdoor living. The outdoors and fresh air has a huge impact on the human psyche. When we get outside, most of us can relate to feeling better. Try to make a daily ritual of getting outside regardless of weather or circumstance.
Many of us have heard of meditation. The studies and the talk about it is well known. Meditation is a fantastic antidote to stress and is an excellent way to center us. Most of us think that meditation is hard. Meditation does not have to be fancy, cross legged and chanting. In fact, meditation is simply our present moment awareness in the now. It does not have to be difficult and we are all capable of doing it. Simply practicing for five minutes a day of centered meditation can make a significant difference in your life.
For some, yoga is perceived as weird and impossible. Yoga can be simple stretches or deeply profound and spiritual. Regardless of your reason for doing a few yoga postures, you will find the mental shift with starting and sustaining a yoga practice. There are many different types, from rigorous and physical to
calming and restorative. Try different types out and see what your body and mind like. A regular practice can be transformative for many people!
7. Access Nature
Truly getting into nature can shift your emotions almost instantly. Finding green trees, grass, ocean or mountains can completely connect us with a calmer side inside. It does not have to take long. Simply 20 minutes in nature can create a calm and ease that can usually only be found in the outdoors.
Our four legged friends are often our true life companions. Animals have the ability to give us unconditional love that we may not perceive elsewhere. Spending a short time with your own animal or even someone else’s can have a huge impact on our mood and well-being.
9. Practice Loving Kindness
Our emotions are choices. Sometimes it is easier for us to feel a sense of kindness to strangers than it is to our own family. Starting there is excellent! When a stranger serves you coffee at the coffee shop, you have the opportunity to stand in a space of unconditional kindness for this person. After practicing this place of kindness you will find that this can shift into even love for this individual. It does not take long for our emotions to feel easier and more fluid with a little bit of focus.
10. Practice Joy
We are not often taught this – but our natural state of emotion is actually joy. Look at the vast majority of babies and children. Regardless of their condition, their dominant emotion is joy and well-being. This is ours. With a bit of coaching and practice, this can be yours too. Imagine what life would be like if we allowed ourselves to feel this? Exhilarating! Letting yourself feel joy is a step that most of us hold back and are tentative with. Joy is our more natural state and just takes a little bit of practice!