Stress: When the Body Say’s NO!
About 8 years ago I read an amazing book by Gabor Mate called “When the Body Say’s NO: How stress causes disease”. At the time of reading my face was covered in cystic acne, I was low energy, grumpy, I had trouble smiling and properly moving my jaw because my muscles were so tight with anxiety, I was very emotional and unhappy. My hormones were out of whack, and so was my life because I was so stressed out! This book was one of my turning points in realizing that I needed to care for myself to further improve my health! It is one of the most influential books I have ever read, and I recommend you read it too!
I decided to write this post after quite a challenging weekend. I had just spend two weeks at home trying to work on my business remotely, while at the same time spending most of my day’s with my 100 year old great grandmother, on top of visiting with a few friends and family, and exercising! It was a fantastic trip, once in a lifetime opportunity, but very tiring. After the trip I flung myself into a full on 12-14 hour, 6 days in a row workdays. Multiple lunch and learn presentations, launching a women weight training program, training 25 clients, and commuting from North Van everyday by bike. Let’s just say that by Saturday I was a mess. I was emotional, exhausted, grumpy, and I could barely move my neck the muscles were so tight. It’s a pattern I have, overwork myself till the point when my body say’s NO! Then I make a change….
So on Saturday I made a list “Things I need to do to make my life easier and more sustainable”. One of those things was I needed to rent my own apartment again. I needed my own space closer to work that I could relax in, easily buy and prepare my own food, and cut down my commute time. I needed to start making my own tea and food at home. I had got myself into a cycle of spending $4-8 a day on tea, plus dining out, therefore having to work even harder to pay for my excess spending! On top of all of that I was trying to prove something by biking around the city everyday, rather than taking it easy and hopping on a bus. I don’t know why I do it, but I tend to overachieve to a breaking point, then reevaluate, make changes, and de stress my life!
My purpose in writing this for you today is to bring awareness to how stress is wreaking havoc on your body and in your life. I had to spend two days in bed watching TV, being emotional and physically sore to recover from my week! Do you get stressed to that point? Do you have to drink, smoke, use caffeine, lash out on others, overeat, or use another vice to work through the stress you experience on a day to day?
Do you know what being ‘present’ means? To me I define being present as being clearly in the moment; aware of my surroundings, aware of my feelings, aware of others I am interacting with, feeling calm and controlled in my interactions and my emotions. I wasn’t present last week. I wasn’t nice or grateful to Kyle, my friends, or myself. I wasn’t chatty and upbeat with those I came across. I didn’t want to hug, cuddle, laugh, or experience joy because I was a bundle of numbed out stress!
After my changes on the weekend I woke up today feeling relaxed, calm, started my day with some reading and some gratitude journaling. I was smiling at strangers, aware of my surroundings, totally present and feeling great.
You can’t connect with others, be happy in your relationship, or be happy with yourself if you are so stressed and numbed out. You can’t experience all ranges of emotions when your body is taken over by cortisol. (Cortisol is a stress hormone that wreaks havoc EVERYWHERE, including affecting the other hormones of your body). A stressed out environment is a negative, toxic environment in the body. This type of emotional environment is what allows colds, flus, and diseases to fester in the body.
So what are my top 5 tips to start to manage stress in your body today?
1. Give up coffee, or limit it to one cup in the morning if desired. Why is this so important? Coffee is a stimulant for our body. When we feel tired, lazy, or low energy, this is a SIGN. It’s a signal we didn’t get enough sleep, we don’t have enough nutrition, and our body needs some rest! If you need a coffee more than once a day everyday I believe this is a sign that you are living an unsustainable life and are too stressed out!!! Coffee stimulates our adrenal glands to produce energy for us. When we ask our adrenals to work in overdrive all the time (from drinking a lot of coffee), we wear them down. As a result they don’t work properly! Our adrenals are key in producing hormones, and a variety of other functions in the body. As a result if you wear your adrenals out you see signs and symptoms in the rest of your body! – Instead of having a second cup of coffee in a day, try a relaxation technique instead. Here is what I do mid day (or if I start to get tired):
– Go for a 5-minute walk outside (or up and down the stairs a few times to get the blood flowing).
– Do a few stretches
– Plug my ipod in and listen to my favourite few pump up songs
– Do a deep breathing or meditation exercise. Two of my favourites are:
– 1) Laying flat on my back and focusing on bringing my breathe in through my nose all the way into my belly, holding the air in for 4 seconds and then breathing out as long as I can. I repeat this for 10-20 minutes.
– 2) A nostril breathing exercise. This one sounds funny, but you can do it anywhere!! Plug your right nostril with one of your fingers, inhale deeply, then plug the other nostril and release your right nostril and exhale deeply. Go back and forth between this alternate nostril breathing exercise to stimulate. You can read more about why this type of breathing is so great for the nervous system and relaxing in this article: http://thehealthylivinglounge.com/2009/06/16/12-great-reasons-to-start-alternate-nostril-breathing-today/.
2. Look at your life analytically. What is wearing you down, zapping your energy, not fulfilling you? Once you spend some time getting really honest about this stuff then make an action plan for how you can start to make some changes to move away from these activities.
3. SLEEP! Why aren’t you sleeping 7-9 hours a night? Do you have kids that get you up early? Your mind races at night? You have too many things to do? Whatever it is, get curious as to what you can do to make some changes to make sleep happen. Research shows over and over the importance of sleep for absolutely every function of our body, as well as a long life. Don’t compromise sleep any longer!
4. What are those things on your mind constantly that stresses you out? A certain coworker at work? Fears? Worries about a family member? Negative things you tell yourself about your body? Whatever those thoughts are that race through your mind, there is something that can be done for you! Those thoughts stress you out, whether you realize it or not. I know coaching, hypnosis, psychotherapy, support groups etc. are great ways at dealing with those things that take over your mind and stress you out! I think the most stressed out, craziest people out there are the ones who don’t seek assistance for these thoughts! Don’t think you need anything major going on before you seek help. Even a small thought like “I look fat today”, “I am ugly” over and over is stressful to the body, and should be handled!
5. Budget into your calendar time to rest, relax, distress, take time to yourself. If you don’t do things daily, weekly, monthly to rejuvenate, feel great, increase your energy, you are wearing yourself into the ground. Don’t be like me, where for years I thought this stuff was a waste of time! Everything in your life will transform when you actively take part in stress reduction techniques and self care. There is a very common saying that is “if you can’t meditate 30 minutes a day, you need 3 hours”. If your life is so busy you can’t slow down for yourself for 30 minutes, you need to make a change!
I hope that by sharing my experience with stress it has brought some value to you and allowed you to look at how you operate. Don’t wait until a breakdown, look critically at how you are operating now, and make a change 🙂
Here is a clear article for further reading on the topic if you like!: