Woman’s Head Explodes! Doctors Say Stress a Major Factor.

Okay, so my head didn’t literally explode but only because the steam coming out of my ears alleviated the pressure. I am an expert at reacting badly to stress so I set out on a quest to understand stress and find my inner Zen.
The first thing I learned was that I am not alone. The World Health Organization has called stress the “health epidemic of the 21st century.” Stress is a sobering health risk and one that we are only recently beginning to understand. Like all health risks, the more I know about it, the better I can cope with it.
The second thing I learned is that a stress response is controlled by dual parts of the nervous system – the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic set of nerves creates the stress “fight/flight/freeze” response. The parasympathetic set of nerves causes the relaxation “rest/digest” response. The important thing to know is that only one set of nerves can be active at one time. It is not possible to be in both states at once.
I made a list of all things that stress me out in my life: work, co-workers, boss, HR, what to eat for lunch (okay I might be a little neurotic), my family, and my son. When I listed my son that was when I realized that I was putting the blame on everything around me but realistically am I ever going to be able to live a life completely free of stress? No, it’s impossible.
That led me to the question, is it really the situation causing me stress or is it my resistance to the situation? Consider the scenario of two co-workers, Tina and Zach. Tina lives for deadlines and thrives under the pressure of monthly quotas. Zach likes to take his time and go over every detail. Monthly deadlines make him feel overwhelmed and he often gets sick at the end of the month. Both Tina and Zach work under the same conditions but their resistance to the situation differs greatly. While there are countless stressors, there is basically only one stress response articulated by REI’s clever motto: “There is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.” There is no bad stress, just inappropriate coping.
The third thing I learned is that not all stress is negative. Benefits include things such as motivation to get things done and excitement. However, striking balance between stress and relaxation in our lives is paramount. The ideal balance is called “relaxed focus” and is attainable with practice and awareness.
Here are some ways to cope with stressed, gain relaxed focus, and find that inner Zen that I love!
• Exercise that involves mind-body training, such as Yoga. At the beginning of every yoga class, I close my eyes and I concentrate on my breathing. Once I feel that calm, I allow my mind to probe my body to determine where I’m tense or in pain. I consciously relax where I am tense and send love to anywhere in pain. During the yoga practice (https://boyoga.com/bo-yoga-introduction-video/), I attempt to keep my focus inward and to listen to what my body is telling me. The results are an amazing release of any stress I was feeling.
• Meditation that involves movement. Many of us envision sitting lotus style with eyes closed and palms up. However, when we are stressed it sometimes seems impossible to not follow every thought in our head. Meditation can also be done while in motion. The movement during meditation is usually a free flowing and fluid motion without thought. Let the calmness you feel flow out to your limbs and just move.
• Surround yourself with the positive. Sometimes we spend time in an environment, such as work or school, where everything takes on a negativity. Remove yourself from the negative and surround yourself with people and ideas that contribute positively to your world. I consider facebook a very positive space for me because I am careful to only friend those that have a positive message to share. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have issues that they share with their friends but their outlook and the way they treat others and the planet is with a very positive mindset. When I am at work and stressed, I will take a brief break and check out the posts on my facebook (I do this on my phone as I’m not sure it is appropriate to use work resources for this activity). Usually the positive messages I see from my friends helps me to quickly shake off the stress and put events into perspective. Another quick way to gain positivity is through laughter!
And finally, I learned that life isn’t that serious unless we make it that way so now I’m off to find my sense of humor!

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