Isn’t this the word stress just the “buzzword” of the 21st Century? Almost every conversation we enter into includes the word stress somewhere in it. Let’s explore stress a little more fully before attempting to consider treatment approaches.
When we are placed under certain conditions there has to be a physiological response by the body to enable us to manage those conditions. A very simple example of this is when we are faced with falling temperatures and we start to experience the sensation of being cold. The sensation precipitates and internal reaction that stimulates the temperature control areas of the brain and starts to cause physiological changes; blood vessels constrict, “goose bumps” appear, shivering starts and all of these changes make it possible for us to manage the prevailing condition.
So stress, then, can be looked upon as your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand.
Our bodies are continually subjected to situations that require “physiological up regulation” of various body systems to allow us to survive on a minute by minute basis. Many of these ‘situations’ are common to each and every one of us; environmental situations for example like temperature, noise, overcrowding and survival situations like danger and fear.
There are, on the other hand, situations that are more specific to each of us as individuals. This is where the concept of ‘perceived stress’ comes into play. These are situations that are not common to everyone, but depend on one’s programming through the years. Examples may include things like traffic and public speaking.
Some of us become highly agitated, even angry to the point of resorting to acts of violence, in the traffic while others simply sit back, relax and ‘chill’ while listening to a good CD. Mention standing up in front of a crowd to deliver a speech and some become “gibbering heaps” while others relish the limelight and applause and actively seek speaking engagements.
Situations like these have been referred to as internal stress. This is self inflicted stress. As much as we like to blame everyone else for our response to the situation, we are totally in control of our reaction, regardless of the initiating circumstance. So someone sneaks in and steals your parking — frustrating, irritating, yes, but worth allowing your physiology to do somersaults over, I don’t think so.
In my opinion, then, there are real and there are perceived stresses. Even certain, apparently ‘major’ situations, may simply be perceived as stressful when in fact they really are not. Take being retrenched, for example. One’s initial reaction to being retrenched will often be to go into “fear mode”, “what am I going to do?” Or “anger mode”, “how dare they, I’ll go to my lawyer, this isn’t the last they’ll hear about this”, or even “victim mode”, what did I do to deserve this, poor me”.
A far more productive approach would be to say, “okay, how do I fix this problem?” Start looking for another job, get onto the Internet, network, update your CV, up your performance so that you can get a tip top reference.
The only time being retrenched should start to become stressful is when you have truly exhausted EVERY avenue in your quest for employment and no stone has been left unturned, when there is no money for food, or it’s starting to look that way, should we begin to feel the need for physiological help to assist us in being able to keep going.
There are so many examples of when situations arise and our initial reaction is to feel negative and stressed, only to find, some time down the line, that it was in fact the best thing that could ever have happened to us!
Studies have shown that 95% of the things that we worry about, never happen, so we spend 95% of our time worrying about the 5% of things that may happen — wow, is that unproductive or what!
Perhaps the best and most natural way to manage life, and hence stress, is to firstly consider a mind state recalibration. Carefully assess your stressful experience (s). If it is the traffic, do something to change your traffic experience — leave earlier or later, make sure you’ve got very relaxing music to listen to, consciously talk to yourself about relaxing. If you find yourself consistently using the stress word, stop using it. If you affirm something to yourself often enough you will actually start to believe it. Distance yourself from people that are constantly in ‘stress mode’ and associate with people that are easy going, relaxed, even in the face of adversity, see opportunities, not obstacles, avoid ‘dream takers’, people that always crush your ideas and take delight ‘bonsaiing’ you.
I love what Wayne Dyer says, “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”.
Reducing one’s stress level is very often as easy as taking that bit of advice, and how much more natural can one get!
Having said all that there may well be situations that we find ourselves in that do rank as “real” stress. Under these circumstances the primary objective, after carefully assessing the stress, making appropriate changes and decisions, talking to someone that can offer object of help, is to support the primary component of the endocrine system that manages the physiological response to stress, and that is the adrenal system.
The adrenal glands are responsible for the production of stress chemicals of which adrenaline, noradrenalin and cortisol are the more important ones.
How would you know if your adrenal glands of being over stimulated? Well some of the common symptoms you would experience include:
- tense and painful muscles
- grinding your teeth
- rapid heart rate and palpitations
- gastrointestinal problems including spastic colon, irritable bowel syndrome, food intolerances
- decreased libido and other reproductive hormone fluctuations
- tendency to depression, reduced motivation and enthusiasm
- sleep deprivation
Adrenal support should include:
- optimal nutritional intake with high amounts of vegetables, salads, plant protein (nuts, seeds, lentils, legumes)
- regular intake of fish including salmon, sardines and pilchards
- reduced intake of refined foods, fast foods and all sugar containing products
- avoidance of alcohol and coffee
- vitamin B complex, Omega 3, antioxidant, calcium and magnesium and other multi-mineral supplementation
- specific adrenal support herbs (chat to a reputable health store for advice)
- consult with a lifestyle coach/therapist
A word of caution around the use of medication (anti inflammatories, pain killers, laxatives, anti depressants, sleeping pills etc.) to suppress the symptoms often attributed to stress.
Suppressing symptoms will often drive the problem deeper into the cellular structures of the body. This can be potentially very dangerous as overtime such negative cellular stimulation can cause the cells to “rebel”, which often results in the onset of actual disease patterns, heart disease and even cancer for example.
In summary, then, the most natural approach to the treatment of stress is to avoid it! Actively work on recalibrating your “take” on stress. If you do refer to something as being stressful be sure that the situation has earned the right “to be considered a stress”! Actively seek to de stress with activities like yoga, meditation, creative hobbies, reading, relaxation, entertaining, humour, intimacy and exercise. Set boundaries to avoid being “sucked in” to situations that you know you find stressful. Take active control of your life, stop blaming others or moaning about “your lot” and find solutions to stressful situations.