We all feel the effects of stress, but what is stress really?
Why does stress bother us so much in the modern world?
If you thought about it you’d realize that we all get stressed out so easily- at work, with our families, emotionally something happens every week to make us feel stressed out.
But what really is stress? Did you know that our reaction to stress comes from our basic biological makeup? It’s the process that is called the fight or flight reaction of the body. It’s a natural response that we were born with to help us respond to danger.
Our bodies adaptation to stress is related to the fact that we are really ancient creatures, with millions of instincts that run our bodies that we learned back from our caveman time.
As Dr. Robert Sapolsky tells us in this book, “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers,” the stress that we feel is there to protect us. Imagine that you were a zebra living in the jungle and out jumps a lion that is trying to make you his lunch. Instantly, within a few milliseconds your body goes into overdrive. Your heart rate jumps, blood surges to your leg muscles, and you’re off and running for your life. Such a bodily reaction is natural and it’s critical for your survival.
Our stress in the modern world is much more subtle. Lions aren’t chasing us. Our stress isn’t sudden or what is called acute stress. Rather, it’s long term or what is called chronic. It’s our boss telling us we have a deadline ten minutes before we are supposed to leave work. It’s our child getting sick and we have no time to leave to go to the doctor. It’s the first rushing through traffic and then the sitting in traffic.
But what happens in our bodies is that our bodies react to this smaller and less pervasive stress in the same way. Our fight and flight responses get turned on. But unlike the Zebra they don’t always get turned off. They stay on. What seems like the little annoyances of life lead to a constant stimulation of our bodies.
Stress is life. It’s what happens to us as we live. Some stress is good. Studies have shown that people perform better when under some stress.
Yet, it’s when we let our reaction to stress remain in the “on” position that stress begins to have a negative impact on our bodies.
So how do you get stress relief? How about Stress Management?
Today I’d like to give you one practical tip that you can do to turn off the stress in your life.
The tip for today for this month is called “awareness.”
I want you to be aware of how your body holds onto stress. Awareness is critical because if you’re not aware of something you can’t change if. Imagine if you’re not aware of the gas gauge of your car and see don’t become aware that your car is on empty. You could end up running out of gas.
So awareness is critical if we want to change something. And it’s critical for overcoming stress. You need to be aware because the body because the body’s response to stress is always manifested in your body.
What is your body’s response to the stress in your life? You can evaluate this by “checking in with your body. In particular, I’d like you to check in with your neck muscles. Many people hold onto stress in their neck and upper back.
So just for a moment, close your eyes and focus on your neck and shoulders just where the neck reaches your shoulders. “What do you feel?”
Is you neck tense? Is your back tight? If it is you’re probably holding onto stress in your neck and could perhaps be affecting your whole body.
Lets take a minute to let go of that stress. So if you have someone else around who can massage your neck let them spend five minutes massaging your neck and your upper shoulders.
If you don’t have someone around you can do it yourself. Take your right hand and gently begin rubbing the right side of your neck. Do this for about a minute. Go up and down the neck, and also the upper shoulders. Repeat this with the left hand on your left side.
Now, take a deep breath in through the nose and let it out through the mouth. Do this again. And repeat it a third time. Do you feel less stressed? You should.
It’s important to become aware of where your body is holding onto stress. Just a short message but one that can make you feel better, from Dr. Kirk Laman, the wholehearted cardiologist, and author of “Stressed Out Heart” your guide to helping you overcome the stress.