Managing stress is a very important aspect in our road to good health. We are so overwhelmed with our frenzied lives that we don’t stop for a moment and take a deep breath and clear our minds. We find it difficult to make positive steps because our minds are overwhelmed and overstressed and in a tizzy. It is hard to see a way forward when we are running in circles looking at everything that must be handled in our hectic lives. The upcoming holiday season adds to the load in so many different ways. This chronic stress promotes a chemical environment in our bodies that promote disease or at the very least we are ill at ease. When this frenzied state is a permanent part of lives it has a long term negative impact physically, mentally and even spiritually. We exhaust our reserves.
So how do we manage our stress?
All the previous letters I sent are part and parcel of stress management. Eating right, exercise, sleep management and time management all have a positive impact on our bodies. Conversely, not paying attention to these matters have a negative impact.
The question is, where do we start?
Let me make some suggestions…
- Take a deep breath. Step back and identify the problem at hand. Then look for a solution and move forward. Taking that few extra seconds is always helpful. I use this technique all the time when I am dealing with stressful patients.
- Practice deep breathing. I advise my patients to take deep breaths at least 5 times every 1-2 hours. We don’t realize how quick and shallow our breathing gets when we are stressed. We send signals to our brain that we are in danger even though we are not and our bodies go into the classic fight or flight mode. The stress hormones rev up. In contrast deep breathing signals peaceful surroundings and no danger and thus sends positive signals. There are a lot of smart phone apps that can be helpful to walk you through this practice.
- Mindful meditation. Controlling your thoughts and bringing it in line with your values is very important. After all, we are what we think. Clearing your mind of negative thoughts and feelings and replacing them with positive outcomes of where you want to be in life is an important way to get our stress under control. There are different techniques that are out there that you can try. If one does not work then try something else. There are many also many smart phone apps that can help with this practice too.
- Make a list. We are the sum of many parts and each area in our lives require actions to support it. For example I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, doctor, employer, church elder, etc… Likewise all of you have many roles. There was a time when I was overwhelmed by it all. Then I started making lists under different categories. For example: personal health, family, home, work, church. Then I listed items under each category. Once this list got started I organized them according to priority. I made appointments for myself to get personal care in. The tyranny of the urgent got less as I started to work on things in anticipation. With a lot of time and persistence my life is now in control. Nothing happens overnight. You have to take one forward step at a time but you have to do some thinking to know where you are going and what you want to accomplish to get there. The list never gets shorter but it organizes our mind and this gives a lot of relief to our stressful lives.
- Learn to say NO where appropriate. All things that are good are not necessarily the best or profitable. Pick things to do that promote the health and well-being of you and your family.
- Make a decision to take care of YOU. Then think of ways to incorporate it into our lives. Trying to be healthy should not stress you out. As the new year comes we all resolve to be skinny. Don’t make that resolution, it is doomed for failure. Instead:
- Decide to start incorporating healthy foods into your diet, you have been given the right tools.
- Decide to add exercise into your life, just start with 5 minutes if that’s all you can do. That is great. But know eventually where you want to be.
- Decide that you want to reduce the unwanted clutter in your life whether it is a cluttered life of fruitless activities, cluttered paper and junk in your home or a cluttered mind of negative thoughts. Whatever it may be start with a small action or idea.
Truth is I can go on and on….
There are many roads to a healthy and beautiful lifestyle that will help us to age gracefully and maintain our functionality. Pick one idea and build on it and with time a healthy transformed life can be in your future.
That is what I hope and pray for every one of you. A transformed life that will carry you into the future and help you meet the challenges of life with grace and peace.
Best regards for a healthy future, Dr. Abraham