Stress affects everyone.
Stress interferes with our basic human needs to survive.
Stress interferes with our health and ability to live productive lives.
Stress changes our world.
Young or old, alone or part of a family, stress affects all of us. It changes how we act. It changes how we think. It changes our decision making. It affects how the world perceives us.
How do you handle stress? Do you let others see your stress? Do you let your kids see your stress? Do you make sure your kids see you dealing with stress in a healthy way? That last one is the hard one.
The past few months were pretty stressful in our house. I don’t always handle stress well. I don’t think clearly. I don’t make the best decisions. And, it’s obvious to everyone in my world that something is wrong. I wear my stress just like a new outfit. When it’s bad, it overcomes me. I get stuck. It sucks. And, what also sucks is that my kids don’t get the mom they need. None of us are able to be 100% the person we want to be when we are stressed. Fact.
Many of us don’t deal with our stress well, and the effects are profound. We have a society that is tired, less productive, irritable, gaining weight, depressed, anxious, and generally unhealthy both mentally and physically, all because of stress. Stress changes our bodies in multiple ways, hormonally, gastrointestinally, and cognitively, just to name a few.
When the brain, the gut and the hormones are messed up, guess what? Life is messed up, and things just don’t go so smoothly. Unfortunately, our immune system gets the direct assault. If you want to read more about stress and the immune relationship, I recommend Paleo Mom’s blog posts about how leaky gut and stress affect our health. The impact of stress on our health is so profound, I encourage you to learn more about it, and hope to write another post about it soon.
Take a look at our society, 1 in 3 are sick, the majority are overweight, many are out of work or incapable of keeping a job, most self medicate with alcohol and cigarettes, and many with illegal drugs. The majority of relationships fall apart, many children don’t live with both mom and dad (some with neither), and respect for one another seems to be at an all time low.
As a society, we are not functioning well. We are not dealing with problems and they are causing stress and it has a domino effect on our society as a whole. So, back to the reason I started this post…
We need to deal with our stress, but HOW?
Lifestyle choices. Simply put, we need to go Back to Basics:
- Safety and love. This is a basic human need, and many people are not loved and do not feel safe. Many things about the basic needs of our society are broken. Lack of respect & broken family systems are a central part of this problem. Everybody needs somebody.
- Proper Nutrition. This might be #2, but only because #1 is so primal. This is such a crucial element to one’s health both mentally and physically. Balanced nutrition can cure and prevent many of today’s “modern diseases.” Eating 3 balanced meals a day is a must. Not just our body, but especially our brain needs fuel, and food is that fuel. Too many unnatural foods (I use the word food loosely here) in our diet lead to health issues. If you’ve ever read my blog, you know how I feel about processed vs. natural foods. We will save that discussion for another post.
- Adequate Sleep. If we don’t get enough quality sleep, our body doesn’t have time to replenish. Simple supply and demand here. You can’t keep drinking out of a glass that you don’t refill. For more details about the importance of sleep and how much sleep we each need, check here.
- Exercise/Physical Activity. Our body is mechanical, it’s quite amazing actually. Our body needs to be toned and fit to perform how it was meant to, and how we expect it to. Muscles are there to support bones, if muscles are not toned and in shape, they can’t do their job. Think about all the back pain, neck pain, knee pain, and hip pain in this country. Much of it is because we don’t keep our muscles toned. And, exercise has a direct impact on good digestion. Good digestion is the key to good health! Learn yoga or pilates, just 10-15 min before bed will make a lifetime of difference in you physical and digestive health. I promise. 😉
All of the above have a huge effect on how our body functions.
Proper care = proper function, aka, we can deal with life (and it’s stressors) better when we are healthy. Fact.
So, last month when my stress meter was in the danger zone, and my boss (Who is The Best!) asked what I was doing to take care of me, I knew what I had to do… I told her that I wasn’t doing so well the first few weeks. I even left the house for a couple hours one night because I just couldn’t take it anymore. (I’m not totally nuts though, I just went to my aunt’s house to deflate.)
So, what was I doing to help with my stress? I had been trying to eat pretty healthy (keep in mind that wine is made from grapes 😉 ). I was trying to get adequate sleep (the nights I wasn’t up late researching everything I could find to help my son). And, I was getting ready to start an exercise program (that I should get off of this computer and good do). The exercise program was something I was excited about; the “physical activity” part of my equation had fallen off my radar and I was feeling icky not being in better shape.
Another thing I support wholeheartedly, but was not doing was talking to someone professionally, as in a therapist. I am lucky to have a 2 for 1 in my massage therapist. My massage therapist is one of the best people in my world. We found each other about 12 years ago, and we’ve developed this true friendship/inner psyche kinda love. We share so many of the same philosophies about life. She knows where my muscles are the most stressed and we chat during my massages, it’s better than psychotherapy… Well, better until she gets to the painful parts, but I call that “feel good pain” because it helps decrease the daily muscle aches/pains and gets the stress toxins out of my muscles (and out of my body). She helps me survive. I can’t express the impact massage therapy has on my world. I highly recommend it. I think most alternative therapies deserve more credit than we give them. Alternative medicine works, these therapies haven’t been around for thousands of years for no reason.
We need to fulfill our basic human needs to survive and be productive.
We need to be healthy and happy to live productive lives and be prepared to deal with life’s stressors.
We need to be good role models for the next generation. We need to deal with our stress. We need to address problems, not ignore them. We need to find solutions, not complaints. We need to treat others as we want to be treated.
We need to demonstrate positive alternatives to acting out in negative ways. Our youth need to see adults dealing with life’s stressors in positive ways. This will make a huge difference in our world. This is a job that all adults are responsible for, like it or not.
Learning to deal with stress is a continuous journey for all of us. I’ve been struggling and learning for decades now. I’m still doing research, but I’m also doing a few Sun Salutations (that’s yoga for those of you that still haven’t caught on to how wonderful yoga is) along this journey to help decrease my stressed. I have tried to work through the most recent “worst” stress in my life. It’s much easier to deal with now that we are on the other side of it (well, mostly). I am proud to be able to show my kids how to deal with stress. At times, I set a good example of what not to do, but I most recently set a good example of what to do by making the lifestyle changes that help me deal with my stress. Just 2 weeks into my exercise program, I’m feeling so much better. And, my kids have the mom they need and deserve. Maybe I’ll share a little more about my exercise program in another post soon.
I hope you have outlets for your stress. If not, I hope this post encourages you to create a few. If you want a little help, just let me know. There is nothing easy about life. We all need to stick together. It takes a village, no matter what your age. The support system I had through my most recent stressful issues made all the difference.
Don’t let life dictate what you do; take control of your life and take it where you want it to go. Learning how to deal with the stressors makes the journey much more successful and enjoyable.
So, eat well, sleep well, exercise, surround yourself with like-minded, positive thinking people and…. Enjoy the Journey! You’ll be glad you did.