A lecturer, when explaining stress management to an audience raised a glass of water and asked, “How heavy is this glass of water?”
Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g.
The lecturer replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long you try to hold it. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance. In each case, it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”
He continued, “And that’s the way it is with stress management. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won’t be able to carry on.
“As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the burden.
“So before you return home tonight, put the burden of work down. Don’t carry it home — you can pick it up tomorrow.
“Whatever burdens you’re carrying now, let them down for a moment. Put down anything that may be a burden to you right now. Don’t pick it up again until after you’ve rested awhile.”
We are all too familiar with the symptoms of stress: your heart is pounding, there’s a dull ache at the base of your temples, your palms are sweaty and you’re exhausted. These symptoms are often the result of stress.
Whether brought on by a deadline or a traffic jam (which is seldom a problem in Pagosa — lucky us), stress has become more prevalent in our lives. And the impact of stress on one’s health is undeniable.
Mild stress can cause headaches, insomnia and intestinal distress. In more severe cases, stress has been linked to heart disease, hypertension and cancer. In fact, the American Institute of Stress estimates that at least three-quarters of visits to physicians are for stress-related disorders.
So, when we start to feel palpable palpitations, we need to learn how to deflate stress and chill.
It should come as no surprise that I would push for exercise to help you relax. Stress causes your body to release hormones in surges that raise your heart rate and make you feel tense and anxious. Even 20 minutes of exercise three times a week can help drain these “fight or flight” hormones.
Going for a brisk walk will increase your heart rate and relax your muscles. It’s an instant pick-me-up.
Physical activity increases the production of feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins. It’s often called a’“runner’s high,” but any type of exercise, from a game of racquetball to swimming laps in the pool, can bring the same positive reaction.
Exercise is also meditative. Focusing on the sound of your feet hitting the pavement as you run or concentrating on your form while you swim will help take your mind off the things that are causing you stress. Get moving and keep moving.
Banish negative thinking. Stress is exacerbated by negative thinking. In fact, persistent negative thinking often leads to stress. Change the way you think.
Instead of worrying about meeting mortgage payments, for example, create an action plan. Our stress level depends on how we perceive what is happening to us.
The process of visualization reduces the physical symptoms of stress by slowing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure and reducing muscle tension. Create an image of a relaxing place and engage as many senses as possible. A deserted beach: imagine the color of the water, the feel of the sand between your toes, the sound of the waves crashing on the shore.
Eating a well-balanced diet rich in vegetables and fruits can boost the production of serotonin, a hormone that regulates mood. The next time you’re feeling stressed, eat a banana, pineapple or kiwi fruit; all good sources of serotonin.
When it comes to controlling stress, there are certain foods to avoid. Both caffeine and alcohol trigger the release of adrenalin and will increase stress levels. You hear people say in jest, “If it weren’t for stress I’d have no energy at all.”
What’s more, stress causes your body to release cortisol, a stress hormone that causes you to eat more and store fat.