Are you sabotaging yourself or simply burning out? Learn more about what stress is and how to control and manipulate it.|
Stress has become the “IT’ word of the century. Everyone is stressed. Stress appears to be the number one killer in the western world. Most illness and disease is bought on by stress or at least recovery or healing is impeded by stress.
We are told that families are breaking down under stress and most accidents are caused by stress. Anxiety attacks, phobias and depression are all stress related. Heart disease, diabetes, chronic fatigue, allergies, blood pressure and headaches are just a few of the commonly listed complaints that originate from stress.
It is now widely believed and well researched that almost all disease and illness has a stress related component.Because the word stress has become so overused, we appear to be indifferent to it, or perhaps we don’t fully understand the meaning of what stress is or how its affects relate to our health (both mental and physical. Let’s first look at stress as a good thing. Stress is like a fire alarm within your body. When the alarm goes off, you immediately stop what you are doing and in an instant your total awareness is focused on danger. Your full attention goes to: Confirming if the fire exists,Protecting yourself and your property Alerting others to the danger, and Preparing to run or fight. Stress is the body’s alarm bell; if you are in danger, your stress reaction not only alerts you to the danger, it actually shuts down some of your body’s/bodily functions whilst it also speeds up or activates more urgent bodily functions. Your mind will stop all thinking except for a heightened alertness to the danger. Your heart will pump hard and fast in preparation for great physical exertion and your muscles tighten to protect you from being hurt or prepare you to attack or run. Many chemicals will flood your body and most body functions that are not a matter of life or death will be closed down or minimized. This is fantastic, as you become super powerful and super alert.
Many people will tell you that under extreme stress or trauma they do not even remember the event at all. Often before a car crash, the mind and body are so focused on the crash that the mind completely goes into automatic pilot and rarely do people remember the actual impact. You may have heard of or experienced “going into shock”. This is another example of how the mind completely blocks out everything and behaviour becomes unconscious and automatic. You may not remember a trauma for hours, days or even longer as your mind sorts and gathers the information, to protect you from such a great overload.
Stress protects you and, in the appropriate situation, is a wonderful and amazing thing. Good stress can also be found in happy events, for example in the birth of a child, a new job, a wedding, holidays or moving house. If you need to sing or speak in public you may also experience stress. Stress in these situations can be very helpful as it brings about a heightened mental alertness and increased energy. Stress when working appropriately is a very good thing. Appropriate simply means your reserve tank is used for emergency purposes. When the event is over the body is given time to return to normal function and be replenished. Going back to the fire alarm analogy, imagine a city hospital. Within the hospital are hundreds of staff members, patients and visitors. The prime purpose of a hospital may be the surgery, so you may consider the doctors, nurses, and anaesthetists as the priority people. The machinery and pharmacy are also priority components. Within the system you also have cleaners, administrators, gardeners, canteen staff, orderlies, laundry workers, etc. The smooth running and total efficiency relies on all of these things working together. Although we usually only think about the surgeons and the emergency rooms within a hospital, it is pretty clear that all the services need to work well together for the hospital to function effectively. Now imagine if the fire alarm of the hospital is sounded every day for a month. Every time the alarm rings all tasks stop and everyone needs to leave the building, things like the laundry and canteen become very unimportant and the utmost attention would be directed to the patients. Everyone within the system would prioritise their reaction to protecting or evacuating the patients.
Now consider if every alarm was a false alarm. By the end of the month the whole system would be in disarray, hopefully no lives would be lost and the priorities within the hospital met, but imagine the impact on all the less important parts. Another outcome from this false alarm and its repetition would be that the staff would become complacent about the alarm. After so many proving to be false, you would find that the staff would be less reactive and perhaps get to the point where they simply ignored future alarm bells. Certainly, they would not be as responsive as they were weeks earlier. In effect, the alarm is the same, the danger is the same, but the reaction has become less. This is how stress works within our body: Firstly the body will take energy from the less urgent bodily functions and increase energy to the most urgent body functions. However, if this is continued over a period of time, those less urgent but very necessary functions become greatly affected. The snowball effect of this is that ultimately the entire body becomes exhausted, allowing disease and illness to start their takeovers. Second to this, is that we also get to the point where we no longer listen to the warnings or become indifferent to the discomfort. Many people live daily under extreme stresses but no longer recognize or respond to those stresses. Many people feel normal, as the stress has become a habit.
Stress is using your reserve tank. It will save your life when necessary, but if you are continually left to run on empty you will blow your motoralign. Please understand that when I address less urgent body functions I am not suggesting unimportant body functions. Every function is necessary to health and wellbeing. Prolonged stress shuts down or speeds up functions, which should be humming along at the right speed. Imagine running a car with no oil, little air in the tyres, a dry radiator and faulty spark plugs. Then imagine if you plant your foot to the accelerator at every green light and slam on the brakes at every red light.
These may be considered little things, but you know that this car is about to have some major problems. Obvious stress is when your heart is pumping, your hands are sweating or cold, your body becomes frozen, and your voice is an octave higher.
This stress is obviously recognizable.
Lying alone in the dark of night hearing footsteps outside your bedroom door.
Realizing your brakes have failed as you approach a red light on the freeway
Having a dentist’s drill touching a nerve in your tooth.
Living in a dysfunctional home
Working for a monster boss
Most of us cope with obvious stress. Obvious stress is usually over in a short period of time. Prolonged stress is harmful, but we usually adapt in some way or ultimately remove the stress or ourselves from the source.
Silent but deadly stress.
This is the most insidious and constant stress. This is fear and worry.
Silent but deadly stress is where I really want you to pay attention. The most important thing to know about fear and worry is that to your subconscious mind the fear is real.
When you are deep in thought your mind is reading that information visually and emotionally. The subconscious is not logical or rational, it simply records and files information. The filing system works by priority. The more often information comes in that is the same or similar, the more that is added to that compartment. Many of our random thoughts are stored far, far, away or perhaps even dumped completely. However, if same or similar information keeps coming in, the brain will then consider this information to be important. It will also consider it to be true.
The mind will create emotional or physical reactions to information. Take as an example when you are watching a thriller or horror movie. You logically know it’s a movie, but your subconscious does not. Your heart begins to pound, your breathing becomes fast or shallow, and you may experience Goosebumps or even scream. This is because your mind is living this information.
Watching an erotic movie can bring about a physical sexual response. Hearing a song on the radio can bring you to tears as you remember an old friend or lover. It’s important to understand this, as fear and worry will have you believing these events are happening to such a degree that you are constantly putting your emotions into living and experiencing things that are not happening.
When you lie in bed at night worrying about bills and debt, your emotional world is actually living in poverty; when the kids are out on a Saturday night, your emotional world is living through car accidents or muggings. When your headache is imagined as a brain tumour, your mind is constantly processing all your fears and worries and believing them to be true. We are aware that under obvious stress our bodies release adrenalin, cortisol and other hormones and chemicals, but are you aware that by imagining danger you also release these chemicals?
Stress will also interfere with your immune system, increase cholesterol and free radical damage, raise blood pressure, and reduce breathing. The thoughts are imagined, but the emotional and physical responses are real.
The interesting thing about fear and worry is our ability to exaggerate and expand them. We never exaggerate and expand good things, yet at the slightest suggestion of something negative, off we go! Consider this; Someone at your office mentions that they have heard rumour that there may be staff cutbacks. You go back to your desk and start thinking, “I bet it’s me” you imagine telling your husband and kids that you have lost your job, you imagine getting behind in the mortgage and losing your home. Your mind starts up a conversation with your husband and you’re totally lost in this argument in your head.
You imagine your marriage suffering and taking the kids out of school. Your mind then shifts to a new argument with your boss, boy are you telling him what you really think. Out comes all the victimization and lack of respect and appreciation, you remind him of how much you’ve sacrificed for the company.
By lunchtime you are sitting with a friend and the entire hour is spent discussing your impending dismissal and the hardships ahead. Your shoulders are tight, you cannot eat and a headache is coming on. You decide to storm back into the office and quit, you are now so angry you want the final say and you want to at least have a final swipe at the boss.
Luckily the initial rumour teller catches you at the door and lets you know that the rumour is untrue. This is an example of how we exaggerate and expand negativity and also illustrates how your subconscious mind produces emotional and physical responses to fear and worry. What your mind believes, your body and behaviour react as if it was really happening.
The Chattering Monkey
The chattering monkey sits on your shoulders and chatters non-stop in your ear. This is the head conversation we have while driving the car or lying in bed at night. The example above is a common scenario of the chattering monkey. The chattering monkey takes a slight negative remark and engages your mind in a long discussion with amazing exaggeration. The chattering monkey will always convince you of the absolute worst outcome to the slightest problem. We all do it and we all do it a lot.
Take a 30 min drive on your own and I’ll bet you are totally oblivious to the journey. In those 30 mins you are engaged in conversation with the chattering monkey.
You leave the house thinking your husband was quiet this morning. The chattering monkey comes in and the discussion goes like this. First he’ll exaggerate it. Your Husband is quiet all the time lately, Maybe he is seriously ill or perhaps he is having problems at work, He has lost interest in you, he’s having an affair, he takes you for granted, and he doesn’t love you.
The chattering Monkey always likes to go back into history and search out similar events and add them to the argument. You think about last week, month and year. Now you have a list of concerns about your husband’s quiet mood. In fact it’s not a quiet mood any more it’s abandonment, its aloofness and indifference. He’s selfish and takes you for granted, you add up all the good things you do for him and you add up all the rotten things he does to you.
In your mind you are having a full on argument with your husband, He says and you say………… This example again shows that thoughts create emotions and emotions create physical and mental reactions. As far as your body is concerned you have just been in a fight with your husband. You are angry, hurt and afraid. Your muscles are tight, your head aches and you feel like crying, your blood pressure is up and you are exhausted. When you arrive home your husband is happy to see you and you realize he was simply, quiet this morning for no reason at all.
Note: The chattering monkey also loves to expand your negativity into your history. You find yourself pulling every event since childhood that is similar to the current problem.
Imagine if the chattering Monkey worked on positive thoughts. Imagine if evertime something good happened or something nice was said, if we could exaggerate and add to it. Imagine driving along thinking, I am really loved; everyone I know respects, admires and supports me. Think about the great person you are and go back a week, a month or a year and gather every great thing that you can think of. How often would you exaggerate it?
Unfortunately we do not do this. Consider spending the next week observing your own chattering monkey. See how easy it is to engage in head conversations that are extremely exaggerated when they are negative and watch how rarely we do the same thing with positive remarks.
Talking with the chattering monkey is probably the most stressful thing we do. It’s stressful because it’s a habit and its constant. The number one cause of depression and anxiety is the chattering monkey. This is because the chattering monkey takes small problems and allows the mind to live out the worst reality.
You will rarely if ever have situations in your real life that come anywhere close to how horrific your mind can create an imagined crisis or trauma.
If your memory was good enough you could add up the actual crises you had last year and then add up the imagined crisis. Your emotional and physical responses to both are the same. Remember the mind does not separate real from imagined.
If we could eliminate imagined crisis then dealing with real problems would be a breeze. I would suggest that as much as 90% of our stress is from an imagined source. Can you imagine how healthy happy and productive you could be if you just killed the chattering monkey?
The Chattering Monkey has a cousin. Equally diabolical and It’s known as Media.
Media lives in your home and provides your mind with every type of fear, worry, anxiety and negativity. Media will convince you that you’re not good enough and feed you a constant diet of self-doubt, comparisons and fears.
The average person in today’s world starts the day with a newspaper or radio news broadcast. The mind has absorbed a murder, a political dispute, a terrorist attack, a new disease, a few robberies and a car chase before you leave for work.
You drive to work, the radio is on and you now listen again to all the above.
You arrive at work and your colleagues for some reason mention the news they heard, (like you didn’t!) and engage you in a conversation about the murder, the attack, the new disease etc
Driving home you listen to the radio and of course the news is back again. Your now feeling like there are lots of murders, diseases are everywhere, you wonder if that cough is a new virus, you lock the car doors as you think about car jacking.
How do you feel?
You eat dinner in front of the TV watching the news, you eat desert watching a current affairs program and then watch a criminal investigation show. How do you feel?
Not to mention the ads, Is your deodorant letting you down? Is you kitchen alive with germs? Do you have the right insurance? Are you looking good? Are your kids safe?
Many of these subliminal messages are designed to encourage you to buy things. They are geared to instil fear and insecurity into you. Are you buying this? Think about the amount of negative input you are absorbing.
Negative thinking creates Negative Feeling creates Negative responses and behaviour.
Negative thoughts are the other silent deadly stress. Are you brave enough to let it go?
There is no person and no event that will ever be as ruthless to you as your own thoughts. You may have been devastated by events in your life, but you are the only one who chooses to relive them over and over. No matter how terrible it was to have your heart broken 10 years ago, it is no where near as terrible as the fact that you have relived it and kept it in your mind ever since.
You may have been bullied, abused, humiliated or assaulted and yes these are terrible things. But compared to how often and how exaggerated we have kept them alive within us you can only ask who is the real enemy? Who is causing the pain now?
When is it time to take back your mind? When do you make the decisions to be healthy happy and alive?
So What’s the answer?
It’s dead easy to minimize stress, nothing hard or complicated at all. You will find it a little difficult to be consistent. Habits take time and attention and that’s all that stress is – a habit. A hundred times a day you will be pulled back into your old habit so be prepared to be tenacious and simply pull yourself up and re direct your thoughts every time you drift back.
Apart from avoiding negative thoughts you need to replace them with new thoughts. In a short time you can actually re wire your thinking to take in positive instructions. Remember the thoughts you have create the emotions and reponses you have.
I mentioned earlier that under stress you release chemicals and hormones but it’s worth noting you also possess pleasure chemicals. When you think and feel love happiness or joy, you actually release pleasure chemicals throughout your body. A little natural high.
Meditation and Creative visualization are the most effective ways to re programme the mind. Both require a deep relaxed state and bring about a change to the brain waves. This helps to bypass logical thinking and accesses the subconscious mind more effectively. By repeating certain instructions or images you are actually tricking your mind into believing these great things are happening.
The repetition also speeds up the habit-forming part of the information. In a mediative state the immune system works most effectively so you also have the added advantage of healing and repairing your mind and body. You can also release any stress build up that may have been accumulating. A mediative state can be as effective as deep sleep. Your body can re balance itself and restore it’s energy. The added advantage of using visual images is that you are also gaining positive instructions to manipulate your emotional world. For more information on Creative visualization click the link above.
To be stress free we must be healthy and to be healthy we must be stress free.
You are what you eat. Food provides energy and every cell within your body requires energy to live. The first indication of stress is fatigue. Fatigue is the body’s wisdom calling out for attention. Cells die off and become replaced every minute of everyday. The food you eat will dictate the health of new cells.
Your diet can greatly influence you moods, alertness, vitality and your physical health. When your body is not nourished you will become tired and depressed. Food can be preventative medicine and is vital to your bodies healing capacity.
The wrong foods can pollute your body and can be considered poison. There is so much evidence now proving that certain foods can greatly protect us from disease and illness. Many diseases are also being found to be caused directly from nutritional deficiencies. So much information is given about diet and it have become quite overwhelming, unnecessarily. Heres how simple it is.
Eat fruit and veg everyday. Ideally at least 2 pieces of fruit and 5 veg. Raw unprocessed foods are superior. Include oil but don’t heat it. Eliminate animal fats. Choose unpossessed grains nuts and legumes. Eat only lean meat in small quantities. Make seafood a first choice for protein. Most importantly make food enjoyable and varied. Minimize or eliminate caffeine, salt, M.S.G, soft drinks, sugar and animal fats. Be suspicious of any food that has additives bleaches or chemical treatments.
Drink plenty of fluid, ideally water. Dehydration is the main cause of fatigue and headaches. Without enough fluid your kidneys become overworked and you are less able to eliminate toxins. Coffee and soft drinks can dehydrate and also rob essential nutrients from your body. Caffeine works like adrenaline so it’s like an artificial stress.
Physical exercise greatly breaks down stress within the body and produces a sense of well-being and increased energy. Exercise is particularly good for increasing respiration and circulation and decreases acidity. Stretching and toning exercises help to release toxins and oxygenate the cells, strengthen muscles and release or ease body aches and minor pains.
Exercise also kick-starts the metabolism and helps to burn off calories, improves digestion and elimination. Many people hate exercising or simply cannot exercise, for these people I highly recommend stretching, swimming, yoga or walking. one of the best things I have tried is the big exercise ball. Its ideal for the lazy person as you can sit and watch TV and gently rock back and forth. If that’s not do-able then at least take 30 mins a day and deep breathe. Deep breathing will almost give as much benefit as an aerobic exercise. It’s the easiest and most effective stress buster available.
The first sign of stress is tiredness. If you know you have had enough sleep and your fatigue has no cause it is probably stress, especially if you are waking up tired.
Lack of motivation and just not feeling like doing anything.
Fuzzy thinking, your words come out wrong and you write a bit dislexic.
Feeling like you want to avoid people or finding normal conversations irritating.
Next level; Not wanting to leave the house or staying in bed. Headaches and muscular aches, food cravings or not eating. Allergies or sinus symptoms, skin rashes, small things become very annoying, you become critical and sarcastic, you feel road rage and great impatience. You have trouble sleeping or you have bad dreams. You over do caffine, nicotine or alcohol (or the ones I’m not mentioning)
Up another Level; Your back and shoulders ache and your stomach is tight. Everything you try to do stuffs up and everyone in the world is trying to get at you. You cry for no reason, you are having bouts of depression and anxiety, you catch a cold or flu, minor aches are now pains, you feel like hitting someone or something, take days off work, feel like screaming if caught in a delay.
Blood pressure is up, you have pains and aches, headaches, digestive problems, accidents, violent behaviour, depression phobias and anxiety attacks. Constipation and stomach cramps, skin disorders, hair nails skin and eyes feel dry. You consider divorce and death. You lose or gain weight. Your concentration and memory capacity is affected. You hate everything and everyone.
Some extra Good advise.
Attend to stress at Level one. Stress builds and accumulates. Break it down and eliminate it when it’s manageable.
Own your own time. No matter who or what is important in your life you deserve and need some time each day just for yourself.
Get your support network in place, know who has the best humour and cheerfulness, who is the most compassionate and empathetic, who is the best listener and wise person, who will let you grizzle, ramble and act like a madman without trying to fix it. Sometimes you will need to be “jollied” out of it, Other times you want help or advise, you may only wish to be heard or you might like to let rip and sound off. Know whom to call. If you do not have people to fulfil these rolls then become that person yourself. Yes I know that talking to yourself is considered to be a sign of madness, but really, not talking to someone when your distressed is more likely to turn you into a madman.
Water. Bath Shower of Swim in it. I don’t know why this works but I do know that it works.
Clean your bedroom. Your bedroom is your womb and it needs to be a place to nurture your self. If your really stress and your bedroom is ugly it will feel like your life is ugly.
Eat small amounts throughout the day. If you skip a meal or go too log without eating your blood sugar level drops and it will feel and act like stress.
Have a glass of wine in a nice place and ideally with a nice person. Don’t get drunk.
Make up a “feel good” CD or Tape. Go through your collection and only put on the music that you know will pick you up.
Night and Day. Your brain needs sunlight and dark. Many studies have proven that a lack of sunlight can cause depression and a lack of darkness can interfere with sleep. Sleep sorts out your thoughts and emotions and your body does most of its healing during sleep. Try to have your lights turned down or off during the evening even before you go to bed.
Have Sex. This one you already know about. If you don’t know about it, then don’t do it, go on to the next one.
Play Go do something just for fun. We all go through rough times at sometime, plan things in advance so you know who to call and what to do. Make a mental note of thing you know that bring you up.
Get to the beach or out of the city. The quality of air near the ocean or near trees is far superior and the negative ions can greatly improve your mood.
Breathing and Creative Visualisation are the most powerful effective and easy things you can do to release stress. I have written separate pages explaining why.
Excerpt for Sonya Greens reinventingmyself.
Note: Sonya Greens
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