Most of us have stress in our lives. It comes with being a human being in a busy world. As parents, we have the stress of running a home, working, and raising children. As teachers, we have the stress of providing safe, nurturing, educational forums for our students. As therapists and mental-health workers, we have the stress of the role of caretaker. All of these are wonderful and virtuous roles and the stress that comes with them is tolerable when there are outlets to discharge it and refuel. Where stress becomes intolerable is in situations where there is no relief. Long-term stress will eventually create larger issues like:
- Neck, Shoulder and Back Pain
- Digestion issues (stomach aches, heartburn)
- Irregular heart beat
- Compromised immune system
- Irritability and/or anger
- Eating too much or not enough
There are many ways in which we can manage stress. We can:
Breathe. Our breath is one of the most magnificent tools we have. It is something we can do without effort, but it is also something that can be done with focused effort. When we practice controlling our breath, and raising our consciousness around it, it can greatly benefit our nervous systems. Taking deep, meaningful breaths nourishes and invokes our parasympathetic nervous systems, the part of our brains responsible for relaxation and calm. In fact, if our nervous system had a fire department, the parasympathetic nervous system is it. We have to engage in activities that support our parasympathetic nervous systems so we can learn to self-regulate.
Slow down. Do you really have to do everything RIGHT NOW? Prioritize your to-do lists and figure out what needs to be done immediately and what can wait a little bit. Do one thing at a time. Multitasking, though it may seem efficient, can sometimes slow you down.
Exercise. Take more walks, do yoga, go surfing, jog. Do something that gets you into your body and allows your mind to rest.
Get enough sleep! 5 hours a night won’t cut it, folks. Your body and mind need time to recharge. Anything less than 6 and more than 8 hours of sleep increases inflammation in the body, which will increase your levels of stress, and decrease your ability to self-regulate.
Turn off your electronics and go outside! Vitamin Nature is a phenomenal way to get grounded and recharge.
Be silly. Laughter is magical. It really is. A good case of the giggles can be incredibly liberating.
Stay in the present moment. The more we can accept where we are and what we are dealing with, the better equipped we will be when it comes to managing our stress. My favorite quote from Ajahn Sumedo really illuminates present moment awareness: “Right now, it’s like this.”
When we are rigid around our issues, we resemble a stiff, inflexible tree with brittle branches that break with the least amount of pressure. But when we are grounded and our needs our met, those rigid branches become fluid and move with the rustle of the winds. We become simultaneously grounded and flexible. Stress is considered the “silent killer,” but it doesn’t have to be. We can actually restructure our brains by being kinder to our nervous systems with mindful practices of self-care.
As the Buddha said, “If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”