Stress Reduction

All illnesses should be assumed to be stress-related until proven otherwise. Even if stress is not the primary cause of illness, it is frequently an aggravating factor. ~ Dr. Andrew Weil

A discussion about healing in our modern times must include dealing with the issue of stress. It is important to recognize that stress, and the way we handle stress, has a major influence on our behaviors and our health. We know that stress is a constant in our lives and its effects grow and compound when not released. Normal tension is the natural prelude to action; this tension motivates us to take action, which is a positive thing we need in our lives. It was the survival mechanism that once saved us, that is now killing us because we don't know how, or don't choose to stop the process. The problem forms when we are unable to take action based on personal power loss, societal norms, personal beliefs, etc. and we are left with built up adrenaline and tension. Pent-up stress multiplies as unresolved tension. This unresolved tension is the enemy. Chronic, underlying tension and tightness then lives in our bodies slowly stealing away our health.

Darwin said, “Survival depends on the ability to adapt to the environment". Many of us experience troublesome and oft times catastrophic effects because of the difficulty we have in adapting to our environments. I know I certainly was. Physical and emotional symptoms are imbalances that act as messages and ask us for rest, release, intervention, or perhaps a life change. Only we know what response would benefit us most, and often we are so out of tune with our soul-self and our body that we barely hear the messages, let alone know what action is most appropriate. If we could learn to listen to our bodies before the symptoms worsen or even appear, think how much faster we would recover and how much less discomfort we would have to endure. Recognizing what stresses us is the first step to healing. I recommend exploring what your stresses are. Sit quietly and ponder where and how you experience stress and what, if anything, you do to handle it. Once you have an idea of what causes stress for you, you can begin to address your reactions with some simple stress reduction methods. Stress reduction involves utilizing mind/body techniques that can prevent, lessen, halt further progression and eliminate symptoms. The healing techniques described in this chapter make excellent stress busters. Choosing to utilize these self-help methods allows you to be active in obtaining and maintaining your own health versus being a passive patient, taking pills or "living with it".

Taking a “Stress Break”

Creating short stress-breaks to relax during the day and during stressful times is priceless. Here are some ideas. Wherever you are, get comfortable and deep belly breathe from your diaphragm. Take in full deep breaths. Allow your chest to fully expand as your belly rises and falls. Take slow and deliberate, deep and rhythmic breaths. Play soft relaxing music. If you can, avoid interruptions by unplugging the phone and going to a private room, if not already alone. Turn off the lights and sit quiet. If you can’t be alone and avoid interruptions do the following anyway. It will still be very soothing. Naturally allow your eyes to close. Breathe. Let thoughts come and go, be passive. Breathe deeply. Think, I have no place to go, nothing I have to do, no problems I have to solve right now. I give myself permission to relax. Breathe. Count from 1 to 10 taking deep and gentle breaths. Relax your body using a technique called progressive relaxation where you focus on each muscle group at a time allowing them to loosen and uncoil. For example, focus on your toes allowing them to become soft, loose and relaxed, then your legs, your torso, your chest, etc. moving up the body until you are fully at rest. Visualize a pleasant scene, perhaps a relaxing tropical beach or a place in nature you connect with. Perhaps even your living room or bedroom. Breathe. Simply allow yourself to relax until it is time to return to your daily activities. This “stress break” can be done nearly anywhere (except driving), anytime, for as long or short a period of time as you have available. Use it as a daily break, unwinding or short meditation.

When faced with a stress-inducing situation always take deep breaths, check your judgment, and allow yourself to go with the flow. A tragedy can turn out to be for our greatest good if we approach it in ways from which we can grow.