Stress is something that’s ingrained into the human experience. It’s something our bodies tend to do from time to time. Stress in small doses helps us to perform better under pressure. We can thank our Paleolithic ancestors for that. But in our modern age if you’re constantly stressed out for no reason, the effects can be devastating – and eventually even deadly. Stress is for the most part manifested in a physical state. Your body thinks that it is under attack and will switch into “fight or flight” mode. In this state, you release a mix of hormones and chemicals to combat whatever stressor has set you off. This output includes: adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine. A stressed person will have a faster heartbeat, quickened breath and tensed muscles ready for action. This natural response used to fire off to protect against the most dangerous of predators and threats that once stalked this earth. For hundreds of thousands of years, our ancestors lived and breathed in the underbelly of the wild and savage world. Split second reactions boosted by the stress response kept us alive and evolving. In our modern world, this “flight or fight” stress mode still helps us survive many dangerous situations. The problem starts when your stress response is firing off all the time. Day after day, moment after moment, the flushing of these chemicals throughout your entire body puts your health and well being at a serious risk. You’re late for a deadline, the damned neighbor’s dog won’t stop barking, you’re heading down the news cycle rabbit hole and everything seems to set you off! This stressed mode has become your only reality. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Only you can change it. Relax. Float downstream, there’s no need to stress. Trust us, you’ll see.
Combating stress in the modern world
If you’re sitting down and reading this, you’re probably not traversing the jungles avoiding stalking jaguars and preparing to go to war with the tribe next door. But if you’re stressing, the ancient cells in your body are preparing you as if you were still there. We live a relatively peaceful type of existence compared to our ancestors. High levels of stress were once a necessity to keep us alive. Sustained levels of stress are now a recipe for visiting an early grave. Stress seriously kills. One of the stress hormones, cortisol, has for years been known as a public health threat. Scientists know that elevated cortisol levels affect a number of physiological and mental aspects. Some of these things include, interference with memory and learning, lowered immunity, weakened bone density, heart disease and so on. Chronic stress can also lead to an increased risk for depression and other mental problems. If we go to the root cause of this, we’ll see that this is all preventable. It starts with not worrying… but how do we start to do this?
No amount of anxiety makes any difference to anything that is going to happen. – Alan Watts
Sometimes we can’t just flip the zen switch. What we can do is take action against the stress.
Ways to start living stress free
As the famous Chinese philosopher Laozi said in a proverb "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." So let’s not get stressed about reducing stress. The simplest and best way to start reducing stress is to be mindful and focused on one thing at a time. Clear your mind of distraction, disorder and focus. There’s no such thing as multitasking. One thing at a time. Start to become completely engaged in what you’re doing at the present moment in the here and now. Whether it’s making your bed or starting a new creative journey. Begin and focus, for that is the point on this new stress-free locus. Develop new healthy habits, one thing at a time. It could be as simple as making sure to floss your teeth, or stop eating junk food. It will begin to add up. Plus, you already know these things are good for you. Let this stress-free journey lead you into new avenues of creativity and happiness. Start something you’ve been wanting to do for sometime. Get creative and healthy. Here’s a few activities to do along the way. Start with relaxing and putting spaces throughout your day to relax. It’s important to take breaks during the work day. Stop what you’re doing at the desk and go for a walk. Have a little bit of a stretch. Enjoy the fresh air without a motive behind doing something. It’s been proven that by taking breaks we improve on whatever we were working on. So even though you might feel like you’re not doing anything supposedly “productive,” you’ll be helping yourself out in the long run.
There are a number of ways to meditate. Becoming mindful and utilizing thousands of years of whimsical meditative practice will help you eliminate anxiety and lower your cortisol levels. Meditation can be done anywhere, anyplace and any time. The next time you find yourself in a potential stressful situation, just take a few deep breaths and feel the relaxing spirit take over control. Set aside at least 10 to 15 minutes every day to meditate and create a sense of calm in your environment. Exercise. Get those muscles pumping and let that sweat flow. Flip that stress around and use it for your own advantage. Feel like the blood is boiling, you’re about to get going and stressed out? Channel that into activity either outside, at the gym or in your room. Exercise will make you a lot healthier and take you off the unhealthy express train. Eliminating your stress can start today! A healthier body is awaiting you on the other side of your new stress free existence.