“My Intent is to stress less”
What is Stress?
Simply put, stress is the reaction of our mind, body, and/or spirit to a demand placed on us. It happens when we react to something we view as negative, which could be anything from someone cutting you off on the freeway to finding out you’. But even positive stress, like getting married, starting an exciting new job, or having a baby has a powerful impact on our minds and bodies.
The American Institute of Stress has even called stress “America’s number-one health problem,” especially if it’s chronic. Over time, unrelieved tension can cause the body to continue to release hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline which can impair brain, digestive, and immune function and raise your risk for depression and anxiety. In fact, unchecked stress levels can have an impact on virtually all aspects of health.
How Can I Achieve My Intent?
An exclusive round-up of the best thinking from leading experts
“Do one thing at a time. This is the simplest and best way to start reducing your stress, and you can start today. Right now. Focus as much as possible on doing one thing at a time. Clear your desk of distractions. Pick something to work on. Need to write a report? Do only that. Remove distractions such as phones and email notifications while you’re working on that report. If you’re going to do email, do only that. This takes practice, and you’ll get urges to do other things. Just keep practicing and you’ll get better at it.” — Leo Babauta, creator of Zenhabits.net (This tip is the first of Babauta’s “10 Simple Ways to Live a Stress-Free Life.”)
“Have no expectations. By not expecting a particular outcome, you approach life with innocence instead of agenda. This allows you to be awake in the moment. It also keeps you from being disappointed that your expectations aren’t being met.” – Arthur Jeon, author of City Dharma: Keeping Your Cool in the Chaos and Sex, Love & Dharma: Finding Love Without Losing Your Way
“I remember reading in a major newspaper an article called ‘The Genetic Crystal Ball.’ The article mentioned that every human being has approximately 30 genes that are pre-disposed to disease. Hopefully those genes remain dormant for a lifetime. But the primary triggers for those genes are environmental toxins and stress. When we sustain stress day in and day out, we are bound to trigger one of these genes, leading to some type of disease. So we must have a means of dealing with stress. I always tell my yoga students how greatly our culture undervalues ‘rejuvenation.’ When we go to the hospital or doctor, very rarely do we experience a rejuvenating atmosphere or a direct antidote to the stress we endure when sick. So here’s my recommendation: Every day, in the middle of the day, lie down, turn on the sound of running water on your iPod, close your eyes, and reset your mind and body. Writer Natalie Goldberg said, ‘stress is basically a disconnection from the earth, a forgetting of the breath. Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. Nothing is that important. Just lie down.’” – David Romanelli, yoga teacher, Yahoo! Wellness Expert, and author of Yeah Dave’s Guide to Livin’ the Moment: Getting to Ecstasy Through Wine, Chocolate and Your iPod Playlist
“You may be adding significantly to your own experience of stress by being caught up in and unconsciously feeding reactive feelings of ill will and dislike for the stressful experience as it happens. In the midst of feeling stressed, start to listen for your own inner reactions. Self-talk like ‘I hate this!’ or ‘This isn’t going away fast enough!’ or ‘I don’t know what I am going to do about this,’ reflects the presence and intensity in your inner life of powerful and destructive feelings of ill will and aversion. So make it a point to be more mindful of such feelings of ill will and rejection. After mindfully noticing your reactions and stepping back from fighting or feeding the feeling, try offering yourself a positive affirmation or words of encouragement.” — Jeffrey Brantley, M.D., founder and director of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program at Duke Integrative Medicine, and author of Calming Your Anxious Mind: How Mindfulness and Compassion Can Free You from Anxiety, Fear, and Panic, and co-author of the Five Good Minutes book series
“When stress creeps up on you I encourage my clients to try a dose of what Bradford Keeney calls ‘shaking medicine.’ That means to literally ‘shake off’ the negative feelings, the ‘stuckness’ and disorientation of upsetting events, like when the boss yells at you or the financial markets turn south. Instead of getting stuck in a mish-mash of mental machinations, you can ‘work from within’ using your innate healing abilities. Start by feeling the impact of the stress in your body as tightening, stiffness, and numbness. Then let yourself start to rhythmically shake, perhaps beginning with a hand or a foot. Let that motion move through you organically, following the impulses of where it feels good to loosen up. Move gently in unplanned, unpredictable ways, letting the shaking move wherever it wants to go. Don’t think about it too much; within two to 10 minutes you should be feeling better. When we move, we change. Give ‘shaking medicine’ a try and notice how it helps you to transform your energy into a new groove.” – Susan Bernstein, Ph.D., creator of Work From Within and the CD, “Creating Work that Fits You, From the Inside Out.”
Where Do I Start?
Step 1: Take a hard look at where the stress in your life is coming from. For many of us, work is a huge source of stress. It that’s true for you, start by asking yourself what it is about your job that’s making you tense and also which of those aspects of your work – income, hours, boss, coworkers, commute, tasks – might be shifted and which can’t.
Step 2: Take inventory of your relationships with your spouse/partner, children, other relatives, friends, neighbors, and coworkers and figure out who’s adding stress to your life, and who’s helping to relieve it (on balance).
Step 3: Consider what really relaxes you and decide on one or two practical ways to add more of these activities (or simply time doing nothing) to your life, even if it’s just a few minutes every day. Keep in mind that activities many of us think of as relaxing – watching TV, surfing the Web, shopping – aren’t true stress relievers and can in fact add tension and fatigue to your life. What relieves tension can be very personal, so think about what makes you feel rejuvenated, joyful, and energized.
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