Is Stress Slowly Killing You?
Did you know that April is National Stress Awareness Month? I wonder if that has to do with taxes being due on the 15th… Ha ha ha! Stress affects us all and is certainly worthy of a lot more awareness. Studies are finding that stress is at the root of most ailments, many of which lead to serious disease. Skin issues, the common cold, weight gain, sleep problems, heart disease, and stomach issues are just a few of the ailments connected to stress.
The body’s response to stress is hormonal, releasing cortisol and adrenaline. If we experience long-term chronic stress without the hormones being allowed to lower back down to normal levels, this can lead to other physical issues like adrenal fatigue and hypertension.
However, stress is a part of everyday modern life now. Traffic, work deadlines, money insecurities, and our relationships all cause stress responses in our bodies multiple times a day. We all feel it, all day long.
And apparently, those of us over 50 are more stressed than anyone. A recent Harvard University-Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-NPR poll of about 2500 people, found that most people over 50 had experienced a “great deal” of stress in the past month. During this time of life, it may seem like the stress dominos keep falling: job changes, illness, death of a family member, menopause and let’s not forget teenagers, can all happen at the same time!
One of the major lessons I learned in my double cancer diagnoses was to pay close attention to my stress levels and do whatever necessary to keep my life as stress free as possible. What I learned was that you can eat all the healthy food in the world but if your inner life (your mind) isn’t healthy, your outer life (your body) won’t be either.
Managing stress is really all about self-care. Putting yourself and your health first so you have the energy to continue to be a loving spouse, parent, friend is essential to avoid burnout and illness. I worked a lot on my mental state while in treatment and I continue to have to manage it in survivorship because I find that it’s when I’m under stress that I am short tempered, irritable, and reactive rather than easy-going and happy. And I also know that the stress hormones are not good for permanent remission.
Are you feeling stressed?
I have an entire session in The Permanent Remission Project group coaching program devoted to stress management, giving tools and techniques I’ve used with success. I also wrote an extensive six-part blog series between Thanksgiving and New Year’s last year devoted to managing stress. This is how important it is to your health!
If you are feeling stressed, here is a quick 5 minute ritual adapted from the Loving Kindness technique of Mindfulness Meditation that you can do anytime, anywhere. If practiced daily, I guarantee this will help you handle the stress of our crazy world.
And if this is not your cup of tea, the #1 best thing you can do to alleviate stress is to SLEEP (another topic that an entire session is devoted to in The Permanent Remission Project group coaching program).
5 Minute Mindfulness Meditation to do anywhere, anytime
- Find a quiet place to sit where you won’t be interrupted.
- Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
- Take three deep breaths, expanding your chest as full as it can go and releasing the air completely, then continue to breath normally.
- Say silently to yourself, “May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease.” Really feel these words. Repeat them until you feel them.
- Next think of a friend or someone in your life and say silently to yourself, “May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease.” Truly feel these well wishes for the person. Repeat with another person you know, possibly someone you are not on good terms with.
- Next, expand further out to your neighborhood, your city, your state, the country, the world, saying silently to yourself, “May you all be happy. May you all be well. May you all be safe. May you all be peaceful and at ease.”
- When complete, take 3 deep breaths again, staying aware of your body as you inhale and exhale.
- Remain with your eyes closed for a moment or two longer. Notice how you feel. Has your anxiety lessened? Has your upset diminished? Are you filled with peace and love for yourself and your fellow beings?
Give this practice a try whenever you feel tense. Let me know how it goes in the comments below!