STRESS. Ugh…. even the word carries with it this un-easiness…. this feeling of discomfort. But what is it really? and why does it happen?
Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When we sense danger, whether it’s real or imagined, whether it’s a true physical danger or a demand being put on us, the body’s defenses kick into overdrive. It’s the “fight-or-flight response” – it’s a rapid and automatic response that acts like a gas pedal being pushed in your car. It provides the body a rush of adrenaline so that you can flee from a dangerous situation. You see, in the past, our ancestors had to run from true dangers so this was very useful. As we evolved though, this fear response never changed. With our ancestors, after they fled to safety, they were able to quickly return to their calmer, more restful state called rest-and-digest. The problem is that today, we live in a busy world…. far more demanding than even two generations ago, and we are constantly in fight-or-flight mode. Over time, we have actually strengthened our stress response and weakened our ability to return to our more calm, restful state, if at all.
Everyone I talk to seems to wish they had more time, more energy, less stress. Does this sound familiar? you wake up exhausted, wishing you had more sleep, you think of your day ahead and it fills you with tension, dread, and you find yourself wondering how you’re going to get it all done. You need to find time to get your work done, then look after your family, yourself and if you have time, sprinkle something healthy in there like a workout and a healthy meal and if you have enough energy after all that, you might get to spend quality time with someone you love or have a few moments to be social…. then you get to fall into bed, hoping you might get enough rest, but knowing you probably wont, only to return to the same hamster wheel the next day?
Most people want to actually get through the day and feel like they are not sprinting from one task to the next. So how do we re-train ourselves and strengthen “our calm muscles?” so we can get back to our more natural state?
There are 3 easy tools you need to build your CALM muscles:
- Meditation – taking time to quiet the mind is a crucial skill that must be learned in order to reach this quieter, calmer state of being. This takes practice, just like learning any new skill. If you can find a way to do it that works for you, start with ten minutes a day and work your way up to 20 or 30 minutes. As you do this repeatedly, you are teaching your brain and nervous system to fire off this sequence of biochemicals and relaxed emotions so that each time you do it, you are strengthening your body’s ability to do it – you are also strengthening your CALM muscle. The more time you spend in this relaxed state of being, the more we are re-training our bodies to return to our more natural state.
- Focus on Abundance rather than lack by Practicing Gratitude – the practice of gratitude immediately shifts our focus from what’s missing, what we are striving for or what’s lacking to what we already have. The more time we spend thinking of what’s already existing in our lives, the more time we are spending in our more natural state. This again strengthens our neurology….it trains our bodies to remain calm and relaxed, because you’re paying attention to all you have in your life and the positive emotions that come with those thoughts.
- Extend the Good: We are wired to focus on the negative events more than the positive events. When something good happens in your day, take time to ponder all those wonderful emotions that go with those events – did you feel happy? excited, proud of yourself, grateful, connected, loved? Take some time to really focus on the positive feelings and really feel them. Linger on those moments as much as possible to retrain the brain that you’re doing it well and stay in the calm.
I promise you…. if you can put these tools into practice, you’ll feel your stress reduced, you’ll sleep better, you’ll get through the day feeling calmer and more focused and you’ll even give your immune system a boost!