Still Stuck and Feeling Stressed
“It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” Robert W. Service
STRESS is all around us (e.g. life-, work-, financial-, emotional- and relationship stress). It affects all aspects of our lives and wellness (physical-, emotional-, intellectual-, spiritual-, environmental-, financial-, occupational- and social wellness). High stress also affects our weight, sleep, quality of life, energy and basically everything. The good news: You can learn to manage it, as stress will never disappear.
If left untreated, it may cause mild health challenges (lack of sleep, low concentration and memory, low energy levels, a suppressed immune system, etc) or even more extreme chronic lifestyle diseases (including depression, heart disease, diabetes, overweight/obesity, arthritis and all other inflammatory diseases). Stress is the number one cause for ALL chronic diseases. It is, therefore, crucial to become aware of your stress and learn how to manage it effectively, to reduce your health risks.
I share my holistic (mind, body and soul) approach to managing your stress, teaching you the effect that stress has on our mind-body-soul unit and how you can manage your stress to improve wellness.
It’s time to take the driving seat in your life and learn more about your health and how to live a stress-less and happier life!
Top Ten STRESS-LESS Tips
Stress is an ancient survival tool to ensure survival of the species. It is deeply ingrained in all of us, therefore we have to dig deep to learn how to manage it.
When your physical, mental-emotional or psychospiritual and social aspects are balanced, it will promote a state of relaxation, calm and centredness (even during turbulent times).
Stress can come in any shape and size and affects all of us differently. Our stress triggers/stressors (factors that cause us stress) also differ depending on our personality, state of mind, situation and/or circumstance. For example one person can get stressed if someone talks too loudly, while someone else can get stressed by admin.
Chronic (or long term) stress releases hormones and chemicals that have a direct effect on the functioning of all our cells and may lead to renegade inflammation. The detrimental effects of stress generally express in our genetic inherited weaknesses and therefore it presents in different organs and systems, differently in each of us – some may experience gut issues while others experience eczema, tiredness, fatigue, overweight/obesity or become sick often (i.e. affecting the immune system). These are known as our stress symptoms.
We are all different when it comes to dealing with our stress triggers/stressors; therefore we need unique stress solutions.
“Today I will be conscious of my thoughts, my words and my emotions. Today I will live in the moment and invite love to be present.” – Julie Parker
Time out in your day is essential for your health and happiness. Time out helps you to regenerate, rejuvenate and recover from your daily stresses and strains. Our species did not evolve to be stimulated 24/7, even if today’s society requires us to work abnormally long hours. Take at least 5-10 minutes entirely to yourself, daily, to regroup and let go of your stressors. It is also essential to replace destructive thoughts that causes stress, especially of work and to-do lists, with constructive and relaxed ones during this time. Take time out to sit or lie down and breathe.
Relax, recover and reprogram
Research shows that relaxation is key to a well-balanced life. Relaxation is a great tool to help you master and manage your stress. One of the easiest ways to start a relaxation practice is through breathing. Stress triggers shallow breathing, which means your cells are not receiving enough oxygen to function optimally. Common signs of this include brain fog, forgetfulness, fatigue and feeling overwhelmed.
Breathing activates our parasympathetic nervous system (aka our rest and digest system) and forces your body to relax. It might seem simple, but we are not used to deep breathing at all. I developed my ‘Stress Solutions Relax and Unwind Level 1’ audios to help you do just that (any time and anywhere).
When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, immediately bring your attention to your breathing. Stress-triggered shallow breathing goes unnoticed, but when we start becoming aware of it, we can take action and breathe deeply. This will ensure that all our cells receive enough oxygen not just to survive, but to thrive.
Daily relaxation or meditation can improve the functioning of your entire body as well as help lower inflammation. Stress and inflammation are the main cause of all lifestyle diseases. Take regular deep breathing breaks during your day. You can even take a long soak in a hot bath with anti-inflammatory essential oils.
What and how you think and feel, have a profound effect on the messages you send to your cells. Your body only does what you tell it to, therefore be mindful of the conversations in your mind. Your mind can be your greatest ally or worst enemy. The good news: You decide!
Work-life balance is crucial to long term health. Find a way to let go after a busy day and have a clear boundary of when work stops and home life begins.
Emotions and thoughts
Thoughts have a real impact on physical health. Molecules of the mind (released due to thoughts and emotions) course through the blood stream and enter the cells. They then affect the cell’s function directly. You become what you think. Your cells ‘feel’ like you do.
Resentment, bitterness, fearful imagination and worry have a negative impact on the immune system, heart and whole body.
The two main emotions are: LOVE and FEAR. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and Emotional Positioning System (EPS) are emotional GPS that can help you become aware of your current emotion and then we teach you how to move up this system to get closer to love.
Your cells do not know the difference between perceived and real stressors or threats; therefore whether you think about negative things or whether they are actually occurring does not matter to your cells. It is crucial to become aware of your thoughts and how they might be impacting your body. Suppressing emotions will cause higher stress in your body. Learning to manage your emotions is a crucial step to a stress-less life.
Self-knowledge and self-awareness
We cannot heal or work on anything if we are not first aware of it.
Self-knowledge and self-awareness are two of the most important factors for change in our lives. Awareness of our stressors and stress symptoms is the crucial first step to managing stress. We need to become aware of what is holding us back, then educate ourselves to make informed decisions and then take action to bring about lasting change.
Human beings can change their lives by changing their perceptions, attitudes, thoughts and limiting beliefs. Making the decision to take control of your life and manage your stress effectively is step 1 when it comes to mindset. Incorporate these tools into your daily life and remember that practice makes perfect. You need to use these tools regularly to form a new habit or else nothing will change.
Soul connection is essential for a stress-less life. Spiritual practices (no matter your religion or spiritual path) help to align body, mind and soul. Connect to Source with your choice of spiritual ritual, breathing, through prayer or by being in nature. No matter what it is, as long as you feel calm, connected and relaxed.
Listen and learn
Start listening or becoming aware of your body and mind. For example, don’t push your body physically when in pain or discomfort; start noticing your thought patterns and emotions. Our bodies are constantly communicating with us, yet we ignore them because of our fast-paced lifestyles. Begin to listen to your body, so that you can support and improve it. For example, when you experience a headache it is mostly due to dehydration. When you are aware of it, you can start drinking enough water daily (250ml per 10kg body weight) and prevent the headache all together.
Listen for reasons to laugh! It is the best stress medicine – even chuckling to yourself will do, or try laughter Yoga.
Learn new things, get creative and challenge yourself. Finding a hobby you enjoy is a great way to learn new skills. Having fun while learning is a fantastic way to destress. When we experience pleasure and fun we release endorphins and our brains are engaged in the present moment.
Enhancers for a healthy lifestyle
Moderate your physical responses to stress with your nutrition, fun and laughter, workplace enhancement, ergonomics and muscle relaxation exercises. It’s not only about what you eat, but more importantly that you eat mindfully.
Herbs are plants with medicinal, culinary and aromatic properties. Those that comply with all three are mostly safe to use every day. Those with only medicinal properties, should be used under the supervision of a health practitioner.
There are so many herbs that can be safely used every day to support your whole body and mind to cope better with stress. Including well-known herbs and spices to use in your salads, stews and basically all your food, such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, thyme, rosemary ,basil, sage and many more.
Ginkgo biloba can be used safely as a general herb for memory, concentration and mild depression.
Aromatherapy oils can also be used to balance mood and emotions, promote calmness and increase energy, including lavender, chamomile, geranium and rose, peppermint and lemon. Inhaling essential oil healing plants has a direct effect on the limbic system.
Stress-less movement benefits
Moderate exercise in almost any form can act as stress reliever. The wellness definition of movement is that exercise must be of an intensity for you to meet the needs of your lifestyle with ease: To release stress chemicals, increase energy and protect against harmful effects of stress. Exercise is also essential for a healthy spine, core, pelvis, chest and head.
Types of stress-less exercises include practical movement like parking further away, carrying groceries, taking the stairs, stretching at your desk, dancing, walking, hiking, jogging, swimming, Yoga, etc.
Healthy sleep helps our bodies to repair, recover and heal. Our circadian rhythm (CR) is our natural and internal process that regulates our sleep–wake cycle and repeats roughly every 24 hours. Our CR is affected by light (including screens), stress, late nights, meal times, body temperature and lack of routine. This is why so many people who are overwhelmed and stressed also struggle to sleep.
The CR is mainly controlled by two hormones, namely cortisol and melatonin. Cortisol increases in the morning to allow us to wake up and decreases throughout the day. Melatonin is our recovery hormone that increases as we sleep and then decreases during the day. Long term stress causes high cortisol levels and lowered melatonin levels that may disrupt recovery and healing as well as cause many health-related issues.
Self-love and self-care
Improving your health and making time for it (by incorporating these tools into your life) is the greatest act of self-love and self-care. Health and lifestyle changes, like effective stress management, take a lot of practice, patience and perseverance (the 3 Ps). The 3 Ps can be used to steer your way through life – learn to pause, listen and be still. Then deliberately choose to see every stressful situation differently, responding in new ways and forming new neural networks.
Odyssey readers are invited to visit Ariani’s website https://www.drarien.co.za/ to download your free StressLess Toolkit eBook and to buy Dr Arien’s book Stress Solutions in hard copy, or as eBook and her Relax & Unwind relaxation audios.
Dr Arien van der Merwe
Medical doctor, author & holistic health counsellor
Dr Arien van der Merwe is a medical doctor, author and holistic health counsellor. She developed and presents continued professional development training through VideoLearn and Synergetica CPD Courses on Mental Health in Challenging Uncertain Times; Heart Health; Inflammation both Friend and Foe and Neuroplasticity.
Dr Arien teaches group and individual meditation and relaxation classes, as well as health coaching online (WhatsApp video consultations) and at her rooms in Pretoria. More info: https://www.DrArien.co.za