Today is National Stress Awareness Day. It always falls on the first Wednesday in November.
Stress is something that we experience when we push our bodies and minds beyond their normal tolerances. Sometimes we need a little stress to release the hormone cortisol and neurotransmitters – adrenaline and norepinephrine – to sharpen the mind and pump blood to the muscles in order to move swiftly out of danger. But the modern-day scourge of stress is an entirely different phenomenon, often presenting itself as an extreme form of stress, when our bodies are perpetually flooded by cortisol and adrenaline. The long-term physiological effects can be highly damaging and can manifest in the following:
- high blood sugar levels with greater risk of diabetes
- a lowering of serotonin leading to low moods and depression
- hypertension (high blood pressure)
- compromised immune system, leading to frequent colds and a greater risk of infection and illness (cancer, coronary heart disease, etc)
- sleep disruptions and deprivation
- weight gain, especially an accumulation of fatty deposits around the waist.
The sources of stress can be overwork, lack of rest, low self-esteem, prolonged bouts of anger and frustration, an endless desire for perfection, fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, unhappiness in relationships, financial scarcity or loss, reputation damage, work demands, multi-tasking, pressurised schedules and deadlines, grief over the loss of someone or a pet, arguments and conflict, too many physical chores, and the list goes on.
The cure is so simple and obvious, but we are mostly blind to it. This is because of our conditioning and programming – that we always need to be striving to improve our situation, our jobs, our finances, our love life, our home life. We are never happy or satisfied, until we have more and more – there is no upper ceiling!
You may say that this is a good thing: how else would we push ourselves to make new discoveries and come up with new inventions? But it does depend on the why. If we know we are doing something for the greater good, then stress is not negative, it actually propels us to make bold moves and push past our comfort zones. We see the bigger picture and it fills us with positive feelings of excitement, anticipation and joy.
However, if the why is connected to our ego and accumulation of people and posessions, the never-ending quest is illusory. More is never enough. The answer rests in being content with less, being grateful for the smallest things in life and being happy in ourselves, no matter where we are at. Being kind and grateful to ourselves is the heart of being healthy and happy. Grateful that we exist, grateful that we have a role to play even in performing small gestures of kindness and love, such as giving a hug to someone who needs it, smiling to defuse a situation, saying sorry even when there are still lingering grudges and resentment. Gratitude and love trigger the parasympathetic system and release anti-stress and feel-good hormones, such as endorphins and oxytocin. The positive effects of these neurotransmitters on the body are not to be underestimated – they can help reduce blood pressure, erratic breathing and heart rate, they can support and strengthen the immune system and boost healing, they can ease anxiety, promote sleep and of course they can help improve metabolism and the body’s natural rhythm.
What is also often forgotten is the importance of self-love – this is not vanity or love of ego. It is loving ourselves for who we are, the universal powers we have and what we stand for. We can do many things to improve our self-love:
- we can accept that we can’t do it all
- we accept that we are less than perfect, but good enough
- we can let someone know when enough is enough (for example, in the case of physical and verbal abuse)
- we allow ourselves enough rest and sleep
- we give ourselves the right foods and drinks
- we exercise to keep our bodies and mind fit
- we generally take time out for ourselves, whether doing a hobby we love, walking in nature, having a relaxing bath, having a massage or reflexology treatment (the latter incidentally helps reset the body’s eco-system, soothes in particular the nervous system and triggers the release of endorphins)
- we do not take ourselves too seriously and we have some fun along the way
- we are grateful for what we have and make the most of the opportunities that come our way.
So do yourself a favour, wake up each morning and look in the mirror and repeat to yourself three times: “I love and appreciate you. You are good enough.” Practise this every day. Also, take time to write in a journal every day (first thing in the morning or last thing at night or even both) what you are grateful for that day. You will be amazed at how much these small practices will boost self-appreciation, tolerance and love. And if you believe in the Law of Attraction, you will experience unlimited abundance in every aspect of your life. Try it for a month and see!