Physics is the original field of study from where the word Stress originated from and can be defined as “how much pressure is applied for something to bend or break”. Everyone experiences stress throughout the course of life to some degree. Some people seem to cope better (or worse) than others given the circumstance or situation.
I was afflicted with Crohn’s disease at the age of 8 years old and medically diagnosed at the age of 10. I experienced my first surgery at age 13. Before moving forward in this article, please watch the short video below. I demonstrate with my own life the link between stress and disease. In the end, I also demonstrate the power of the human spirit in the life I live today…
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Did you know 1 in 3 people are on some form of anti-depressant? According to the American Society of Stress, 43% of adults today suffer adverse health effects due to stress. And, a whopping 80% of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related complaints or disorders. Government figures compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics in 2010 provide a host of indicators suggesting that human stress is indeed a health factor to be reckoned with. Prior to the 1950’s, the leading causes of death were sudden onset of illness by infectious diseases such as polio, rubellas, TB, and encephalitis. In most cases, these have since been eradicated or controlled by vaccines and modern medications. The point is that stress has been a major influencer and even sometimes the direct cause of many illnesses and diseases and it has only gotten worse. Today, we as a society are bogged down by internet-stress, social media, 24-hour ‘round the clock news updates and other stressors that are making it much more difficult to manage stress on a daily basis, which in turn is leading to an increase in stress-related diseases. However, not all stress is bad….
Contrary to popular belief, not all stress is bad. In fact, there are three types of stress we humans are effected by almost on a daily basis. They are:
Eustress is what could be considered as good stress, such as your family and friends throwing a surprise birthday party for you. Imagine you walk into your house at night and its pitch black, then all of the sudden the lights come on in your house and a big crowd of friends and family all scream, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”. The sudden burst of stress from being surprised generates a happy feeling. And, anything that motivates you towards peak performance is considered eustress.
Neustress is anything that is perceived as unimportant or inconsequential. An example could be you read a billboard sign as your driving past it on the freeway. The sign says something controversial generating a stress response, but it is soon forgotten and you never recall or think about what you saw on the sign ever again.
And, finally the third type of stress is called Distress, which can be classified as anything (real or imagined) that promotes emotions of fear or anger and is regarded as negative or threatening. Imagine yourself as a child getting scolded by your parents. To take an example from my own life, my mom would show her anger in her face when she was angry at me. This caused me distress as it would any child. No child wants their parent(s) to be angry at them. Children and adults both tend to react the same when a family member or friend is angry or disappointed with them. I chose to use children in this example, because more times than not, an adult will exercise learned coping skills when getting yelled at by their boss more so than a child getting scolded by his or her parents. Now, because this article is about how to manage stress, I want to go a bit further examining this third type of stress outlined earlier as Distress.
There are two types of distress and they are classified as Acute Stress and Chronic Stress.
Acute stress is intense, but short in duration.
Stress that may or may not be intense, but long in its duration; Stress that lingers for a long period of time. From weeks to months to years and longer. Chronic stress has been repeatedly linked to the presence of various autoimmune diseases.
There are almost innumerable things that can stress us as human beings. These things that stress us out are rightly called, Stressors. Much research (Giradano, Everly, and Dusek, 2012) has been conducted to determine the individual nature of the stressors that we suffer from and they are categorized as:
Biological and Ecological stressors many times are outside of our awareness, though there are many that we encounter from day to day. Some of these stressors are:
According to the field of Chronobiology, the above stressors affect human beings across all cultures in profound ways. As a living begin, you have what are called biological rhythms that effect many aspects of your life. These three categories of biological rhythms are:
An example of a Bioecological influence is seasonal effective disorder (SAD). Have you ever walked outside your house and experienced a cold and gray (clouds) day? We all have. Have you ever noticed that you sometimes feel like just staying indoors or taking a nap on those days as opposed to warm, sunny days? This is a prime example of seasonal effective disorder (SAD). Another example could be if you are flying to another country and have to fly through multiple time zones. When the plane lands, you feel “jet-lagged”. In fact, there are studies that show an inadequate amount of sunlight resulting in a condition known as, Arctic Winter Madness can cause (and has been associated with) depression.
Psychointrapersonal influences make up the greatest percentage of stressors. These stressors include thoughts, values, beliefs, attitudes, opinions, perceptions and interpretations that we use to defend our identity or ego. When any of these are challenged, violated, or threatened we experience some form of the stress response (in varying degrees). This is because Psychointrapersonal stressors reflect the unique constructs of our personality. It is imperative to intercept the stress response in the mind before it moves down in the form of hormones into the body causing potential damage in form of illness or disease.
Social Influence is a term used to explain why some people are unable to cope with their environment. One of the most common social influences that exist today is overcrowding or urban sprawl. A need for personal space seems to be universal among both animals and humans. From long lines at the checkout to traffic jams to feeling like our personal space has been invaded, the original of this particular social influence is instinctual in nature. Additional social influences include financial insecurity, global warming issues, violation of human rights and even some technological advances.
There are also significant social influences related to stress that come in the form of major life changes. In the late 1960’s, Thomas Holmes and Richard Race designed a survey to determine major life changes that caused stress. The survey since that time has been expanded to include several cultural demographics. What they found among the top ten most stressful life events were, death of a spouse as the number one life event that caused the most stress followed by marital separation, jail term, diagnosis of a disease, and others…
To quantify stressful life events, Thomas and Rahe assigned points to the answers on the survey they called Life-changing Units. The higher total Life-changing Units (LCU’s), the more likely someone is to experience stress from a given situation. The evidence found also indicated that some people appeared almost totally immune to certain stressors. No doubt this has to do directly with each person’s individual coping ability for any situation that presents itself. Wanna test your stress?
Click here to download a sample of the Social Readjustment Rating Scale developed by Thomas and Rahe and see how you score!
Regardless of classification, all stressors are connection to human well-being in a very profound way. Over the past several years, the impact of social stressors has become dramatically significant. But, where does all this stress lead to?
In his book, the stress of life, Hans Selye outlines the physiological of Chronic stress, using rats. Sell notes several physiological changes that occur as a result of repeated exposure to stress, adaptation that include pathological repercussions. Some of the adaptations that occurred with the rats were:
There were more findings that I won’t list here. Read the entire research report in Hans Selye’s book, The Stress of Life. Whether you read the book or not, the point is many of the changes experienced by the rats were very subtle in nature and often went unnoticed until permanent damage had occurred. Selye referred to these changes as the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS), a process wherein the body attempts to accommodate stress by adapting to it. Earl Nightingale, renowned personal development teacher and public speaker said, “You become what you think about…” Could there be a connection between what we think about most of the time and the outer reality that we experience as life? The short answer to that is Yes!
I want to briefly expand on the stages of Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). There are three stages:
1. Stage One: Alarm Reaction.
In this stage, the nervous and endocrine, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal as well as other systems in the body are activated. There are many metabolic processes that occur in this stage as well. As a result, there is stress placed on certain organs to meet the demands of increased blood flow, etc.
2. Stage Two: Resistance.
In the resistance stage, the body attempts to return to a state of physiological calmness also known as homeostasis. If the perceived threat still exists, then this is not possible. As a result, the body stays in an active or keyed-up state.
3. Stage Three: Exhaustion.
Exhaustion happens when the metabolic processes placed on certain organs is too much; Certain organs begin to malfunction or shut down from the prolonged, active stress. This can result in death of the organ or depending on which organ is effected, death of the organism itself.
So, now that you have a clearer understanding of the effects of stress, let’s focus on discovering what you can do to reduce and manage stress?
First of all, stress management is not about practicing one technique one time and presto-chango, the stress is gone! That’s not how life works. There is no quick fix to stress, but there is good news…
You can reduce and even obliterate any amount of stress you have in your life at any time if you choose the method(s) that are right for you. Everyone responds to stress differently, thus managing and reducing stress is done through a process that is personal to you. Not every person is going to be comfortable using the same stress-reducing methods. Again, the good news is that this guide will help you organize a routine that is personal to you and your needs – so, lets’ get started examining some ways to reduce and manage stress!
As I stated, we need to organize a routine of stress-management techniques and practices into our daily life if we want to experience real and lasting change. There is no quick fix. Everything in life has its own process and stress management is no different. So, let’s start with the basics, which is your diet! Continue reading to discover foods that incite the least amount of stress on your mind and body. As a disclaimer, I am not a doctor or licensed medical professional, which means you are going to have to experiment to find the right balance and right types of foods for you. If you feel the need to talk to a physician about your diet, do what feels right to you.
Remember, you are an individual and certain foods that are good for another person may not be beneficial for you.
Now, I know not everyone is into it, but detoxifying yourself can be a great way to start reducing the stress in your life. This guide would not be complete without talking about the benefits gained from detoxifying your body before taking on any of the stress management & lifestyle techniques outlined in this guide. So, to be a fair and complete guide, let’s begin.
There’s no pretending – We live in a polluted world. And, detoxifying your body can yield great benefits to your mind and body. Below are some potential life-style alterations that you can make to live a healthier life that includes less stress. To get off to a good start managing and reducing the stress that is in your life, try one or more of the following:
Alcohol is extremely toxic to the body. If your not willing to give it up entirely, try cutting down on your alcohol intake and use a bit of water to dilute your wine if you drink socially.
If you smoke, try to give it up. Acupuncture may be able to help. If you don’t want to give up the act of smoking, try switching to a vaporizer.
Drink LOTS of water throughout the day. Water is a natural cleanser of the body and helps flush out toxins and has the added bonus of making you feel less hungry if you are trying to lose weight. Drinking a lot of water before an exercise workout can help you sweat out harmful toxins, too. This is partially why you feel better after a brisk workout – less toxins!
Clean up your diet. Fast food and processed foods are full of toxic additives. Don’t eat frozen foods like TV dinners and if you can do it, go straight cold turkey on fast food! Completely cut it out of your diet. Your digestive system will thank you.
I will talk more about Juicing in more detail later but for now if you’re interested in juicing, consider investing in a top-of-the-range model juicer with easy cleaning facilities. Then, treat yourself a detox-diet weekend. Here’s how:
BREAKFAST – One type of fruit accompanied by some warm herbal tea.
BRUNCH (mind-morning) – fresh fruit or vegetable juice.
LUNCH – Salad made with raw vegetables, bean sprouts and almonds. You can season with orange or lemon juice, garlic and ginger.
AFTERNOON SNACK – Fruit. If you’re feeling adventurous, try some cream-cheese fruit dip with whatever fruit you are eating!
DINNER – Vegetable soup, salad, steamed vegetables. Drink lots of water throughout the day.
YOGA – Yoga carries with it a myriad of benefits. In terms of stress reduction, Yoga helps to relax the body and the mind. When you practice Yoga, your body shifts to a state of relaxation; Switching from sympathetic to parasympathetic nervous system, so you feel calm, cool and in control.
If you are a beginner to practicing Yoga, be sure to consult a qualified Yoga Instructor versus doing it alone or trying to teach yourself from a book. I cannot personally recommend a qualified instructor at this time. If I meet a qualified instructor that I feel can help you (or anyone else who reads this post), I will update this post accordingly. To get notified of updates to this post and all others, consider signing up to receive the monthly newsletter. I send the newsletter out once every month.
Meditation is the art of stilling the mind and has been practiced for thousands of years. Meditation is remarkably straightforward and can benefit you in many ways in terms of relieving and reducing stress. Not so long ago was scientifically recognized in being highly effective in relieving and treating physiological and psychological issues. Meditation is simplicity in practice.
When you first start to meditate, it can be advantageous to find a place that is quiet and warm, a place where you will not be disturbed. Ideally, you should be seated in a position that is comfortable. Take a look at the infographic below.
There are many different ways to meditate. If the exercise above does not suit you, try one of the following:
Candle Meditation -Light a candle. Focus your attention fully on the flame until your peripheral vision becomes foggy and your attention is fixed on the flame. Focus your attention for as long as you can. This exercise will strengthen your focus, which will cause “random” thoughts to come into alignment.
Counting Meditation – Slowly count from 1 to 10 in your head, keeping your attention on each number. The key is to focus on each number as you count, while releasing your focus on everything else. Again, this exercise is great for strengthening your focus.
Sound Meditation – Use ambient sounds or music to stimulate your focus. Continue to focus on the sound or music to reach a state of mental stillness.
Autogenic training is a series of mental exercises designed to switch off the “fight or flight” stress mechanism of the body and allow you to manage the stressors of your day in a calm and controlled way. There are three basic components that make up Autogenic Training. The first is the art of passive concentration (quietly allowing your mind to focus on your body). The second is repitition of certain words or phrases that allow you to target parts of the body to induce feelings of heaviness or warmth. The third is the positioning of your body in certain postures to cutout the effects of the outside world.
All positions involve lying flat on the floor in a relaxed position or sitting in a chair with your hands resting on the arms of the chair. It is a highly flexible system and has been scientifically researched and once you’ve learned it you can practice it anywhere. Next, you are taught to focus on sensations in the body, imagining warmth filling your arms and legs. Breathing should be calm and easy. You learn to watch your breathing as opposed to controlling it. The whole system is taught in weekly one-hour sessions over a period of eight weeks.
Most people report feeling calmer and more able to cope with stress through the use of autogenic training; they are in control of their lives rather than feeling that life is controlling them. Autogenic training is helpful for anyone with a psychosomatic disorder and has been used to help people with cancer. It can also lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol. In fact, its effects can be so dramatic, people with medical conditions have to be carefully monitored while they train. Some diabetes patients found they have to halve the amount of insulin they take when they practice Autogenic Training. Other forms of meditation can also be decreased in dosage in many cases. Always consult a physician before altering your prescription medication intake. To get the most from Autogenic Training, you need to be taught by a qualified practitioner. However, the following tips can get you started and are based on the philosophy of Autogenic Training:
The environment that you dwell in is vitally important, as essential as a healthy diet. There are generally loads of toxins in every house; Hidden dangers that can compromise your health. Fortunately, there are some pleasant ways to turn your house into a healing sanctuary. Here are some tips to turn your home into a safer, stress-free sanctuary:
Some foods that reduce stress are:
1. Salmon is good for reducing anxiety. Try to find organic Salmon. The actual color of salmon varies from almost white to light orange, depending on their levels of the carotenoid astaxanthin due to how rich a diet of krill and shrimp the fish feeds on; salmon raised on fish farms (non-organic) are given non-synthetic or artificial coloring in that changes their color.
2. Turmeric is a spice that promotes brain health and the preventing of anxiety disorders. I use this along with my multi-vitamin every morning before I start the day, because stress can cause inflammation on so many levels and Turmeric is both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant making it a great supplement to add to your daily intake. You can get a bottle of Turmeric here.
3. Chamomile is an herb that helps reduce anxiety. Studies from the U.S National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health have found that people who are diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) experienced a significantly greater reduction in symptoms after consuming chamomile extract, compared to those who did not. Find Chamomile supplements here.
4. Dark Chocolate contains flavonols, which are antioxidants that (according to the National Institute of Health) benefit brain function and ease anxiety by improving blood flow to the brain and promoting its ability to adapt to stressful situation.
Herbs have been used for centuries as a form of medicine. Discovering the healing power of herbs can be a fascinating journey. It’s safe to say that herbs are the oldest form of natural medicine and it doesn’t take much imagination to think that the early hunter-gatherer societies would have discovered, through trial and error, that not only were certain plants good for food, but that some also had curative properties. Herbal medicines work on a simple biochemical level, triggering neurochemical reactions in the body and so directly affect its organs and systems.
Herbal medicines generally have three benefits. First, in order for the body to bring itself to health, it needs to rid itself of the toxins decaying matter that litter the body. Herbs can be used as diuretics, laxatives and blood purifiers to help the processes of elimination and detoxification. Next, herbs are used to stimulate the bod’s own self-healing powers and to attack the underlying causes of illness. Third, herbs are used to tone the various organs and to nourish all systems that make up the body, helping it remain healthy.
By taking herbs over a period of time in moderate doses, the biochemical responses of the body will become automatic and will start fending for itself even after you stop taking the herbs. In terms of stress reduction and stress management, there are a few herbs I want to point out to you that you can use as supplements, or for making tea, or even for cooking. They are:
Kava – is one of the best Polynesian herbal supplements for managing stress and reducing anxiety. According to WebMD, Kava’s calming effect may relieve anxiety, restlessness, sleeplessness, and stress-related symptoms such as muscle tension or spasm. You can use Kava as a concentrated extract in capsule or tablet form. It is easiest to take it in pill form as a supplement, which you can get here. Avoid Kava if you are pregnant.
Chamomile – is great for when you are stressed or suffering from insomnia. It also helps when you are feeling jittery. Chamomile will help relax muscles and calm nerves, reducing your anxiety, though you will want to avoid this herb if you are pregnant. Chamomile also stimulates appetite, improves digestion and has been known to decrease instances of headaches. I find the best way to ingest Chamomile is in tea form, which you can get here.
Valerian Root – is an herb native to Europe and Asia. The root portion of this plant has been used for thousands of years for medicine and to promote relaxation. Valerian is loaded with antioxidants as well as an assortments of acid compounds responsible for inhibiting emotional responses to fear and anxiety, making Valerian a great herb to use for reducing your stress levels. Combined with Lemon Balm, Valerian root is one of the best ways to reduce your stress naturally and organically. You can get Valerian root here.
First, a disclaimer: If you are taking doctor prescribed medications, please consult your doctor before taking any supplements as some of them can inhibit the efficacy of your medications putting you at risk. Now, let’s talk about which supplements may be your answer for reducing the stress in your life. Below are a small list of supplements, some of which I take daily. The first on the list of anti-stress supplements is:
Lemon Balm is a part of the mint family of herbs. It can improve your mood as well as promote emotional calmness while balancing your alertness. I recommend the tea, but you can also get it in pill form, too.
As stated previously, Kava is native to the South Pacific and is great for lowering anxiety levels. You can get it in tea form or as a pill, here.
The third supplement I want to introduce for reducing stress is Lavender. Best used as a topical oil, Lavender induces a calming effect of the central nervous system, alleviating anxiety and it carries with it a natural aroma that is pleasing to the senses. You can get some Lavender essential oils here. Use as directed.
After you have your physical diet under control, you need a way to unwind that does not include sitting on the couch and watching TV – which is not healthy for anyone!
Below you will find an assortment of life-style exercises and modalities that you can practice on a daily basis. These modalities are designed to reduce and even eradicate stress, so take them seriously. Don’t be afraid to try new things no matter how weird a new thing may appear. Choosing to be open-minded will let you discover enjoyment and satisfaction in what you may have thought of at first as, weird.
Ancient peoples from a multitude of cultures understood that we are much more than just flesh and bones. There exists within each of us a subtle form of energy that cannot be seen with the naked eye nor under the microscope of science. For thousands of years, complementary and alternative therapists and practitioners have worked with this subtle energy and experienced with their own eyes that by working with these energies, they could effect massive changes in the physical body. Science remains skeptical; No one can see a meridian, an aura, or a chakra.
In recent years, more open-minded investigation into this field has shown remarkable results. You can see the aura and the subtle energy pathways and it has been proven that healers can effect physical change. In fact, Einstein proved that matter and energy were perfectly interchangeable, which shows that energy is all around us at all times. The difference between all energies is that they vibrate at different frequencies, such as X-rays, radio waves, television waves, WiFi waves, ultra-sonic waves, and human waves. We humans possess several specialized systems that supply energy and information to our internal organs, tissues and cells at a variety of levels. Human subtle energy known as Bioenergy, is only one of many types of subtle energies that exist in each of us. So, how can we use Energy Healing to reduce stress?
By balancing yourself; More specifically, your Chakras, which are monitors of our physical and mental well-being. Each Chakra is believed to spin at a different frequency. When each of the seven total Chakras spins at its perfect frequency, the systems of the body radiate perfect health; Emotions are centered and balanced and we enjoy health and a sense of inner peace. In an ideal world, all of our chakras spin in perfect harmony. However, everyone seems to have one or more centres out of equilibrium.
Using the infographic below, consider which areas of your life are out of balance:
Are you feeling fearful? lacking in confidence or self-esteem? Work on your Solar Plexus. Do you find you have sexual relationships, but can’t connect on an emotional level? Focus on your Genital and Heart chakras. If your feeling out of touch with the real world, try working on your Ground and Crown chakras. To get the most out of using Chakras for stress reduction, you may find this thought-leader interesting.
There is so much information about Yoga, I am not going to spend much time talking about it in this post. I will simply state that Yoga can be a very rewarding routine. In other cases, Yoga can be a health risk. If you have any health problems, check with your doctor before doing Yoga. If you do not have any health issues, consult a Yoga instructor in your local area that will work with you. Just tell your instructor that your goal is to reduce the stress in your life. If the instructor is not qualified to help you, then ask if he/she can recommend anyone that is qualified to help you use Yoga exercises to reduce stress.
Also known as Visualization, Psychoneuroimmunology has to do with the mind’s ability to effect the body. The late Earl Nightingale said, “You become what you think about…” We as human beings can use the power of thought and visualization to effect changes in the body and to facilitate our own healing processes. You can use Visualization to help heal any condition.
Even though this is the end of the post, it is not the end of this guide. As new information or updates surface and as I become aware of stress reduction and relaxation techniques that are beneficial for the mind or body, I will update this guide. So, check this post every so often to read the latest information available for conquering the stress in your life. You can also signup for the monthly newsletter to automatically get updates on a monthly basis – delivered to your inbox free! Signup using the form below.
What can you do when you find yourself in a difficult position in your personal life or business? Contact Jay and let him help you breakthrough any and all barriers that are holding you back! Watch the short video below to get started!
Jay Colling is a certified Master Life, Business and Success Coach. His coaching practice is located in New Braunfels, Texas. In his off-time, Jay enjoys studying and practicing Self Creation Technologies, a life-style system, which is a set of principles and guidelines that Jay has used over the course of many years to induce a holistic rebirth of his entire identity. Jay also manages Tenacitees.com offering custom apparel designed for the adventurous entrepreneur!
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