Stress is inevitable, you are going to have it, how you deal with it is a matter of choice. Stress influences our feelings, and how we behave, it also alerts us to danger, this is positive. On the other hand, too much stress (i.e., chronic and prolonged) can cause mental and physical distress and deplete our energy bank. In an effort to cope sometimes wrong choices are made (i.e., smoking, drinking, comfort eating or engaging in addictive behaviors) in an effort to relax. Making the wrong choices combined with chronic stress wreaks havoc on the immune system and inflammatory processes, which has a cascading effect in the body, resulting in illness.
First let’s understand how stress works in the body so you can understand why it is necessary to find the balance:
We perceive a threat the “flight or fight” response kicks in and stress hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine are released. Cortisol is released from the adrenal glands in response to a threat. Sugar is released into the bloodstream, your heart rate increases; you are alert and ready to swing into action. Back in my EMT days we used to joke about being adrenaline junkies, we loved the high, it gave us, pumped and ready to save a life, and we were at attention 24/7. We were in an active state of chronic stress, we did not realize how damaging this would be later in life, especially if you cannot turn it off.
If you stay in a chronic state of stress your body will continue to release cortisol, dumping sugar into the bloodstream and as a countermeasure the pancreas reacts and sends insulin in response to the sugar and insulin is the fat storage hormone. Unbridled cortisol running free in your body can cause high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity, which are modifiable risk factor in heart disease.
There is a lot of talk about stress and how to reduce it. One effective way is through exercise, such as yoga or Pilates, or aerobic exercise. However, be careful because too much exercise or over-training can have a negative impact and increase cortisol levels. Other ways include meditation, relaxation techniques; dietary modification such as caffeine intake, and if you are like me, a trip to the spa or a mini vacation works well too.
Many people stress about things they cannot change. Focus on the things you can change. For example: If someone says an disparaging statement to you, you have two choices, 1) you can ignore it or 2) you can react. Now, turning the other cheek by ignoring it does not really help if you let it fester, or churn inside and ruin your day. On the other hand, regardless if the issue is resolved or not, your stress level is increased, you may feel emotionally drained, and in hindsight ignoring it would have been a better choice.
So how can you make the right choice for you? Fast forward to see the end result, resolution or conflict. What do you have to give up? Before engaging in any strategy, look at all your options. A wise woman once told me to pick my battles. You do not have to engage in every little, minuscule detail that arises in life. Sometimes it is best to let it go. It is just not worth the effort or the energy.
Realize that we are energy. Some people take energy and some people give energy. Here are a few ways to identify an energy taker or an energy giver:
An energy taker is a person who thrives on taking energy from others, whereas, an energy giver is always connected to source energy, therefore, does not need to steel energy from others. There is energy all around us. We do not need to cut people down to get it.
Many people do not consciously see themselves as an energy taker, it is unbeknownst to them, but you can spot it and put up your shield to protect against it. Energy takers will taunt you; again, many do this unconsciously. For example, someone says something to provoke you, to elicit a response. Now you have three choices: 1) Put up your energy shield, 2) ignore or 3) react. The energy taker steels energy by baiting you, if you bite, you will feel drained while the energy taker feels even more powerful.
Ask yourself; is this a battle worth engaging my time and energy? Do you keep your power or give it away? When you consciously recognize the power dynamics, ignoring the comment, for example, will not make you fester and boil inside because you have something more valuable; your energy, your power has been saved.
Okay, but you say it is a matter of principle, so some may engage and react. But how you feel afterwards will determine if engaging in action was the right thing to do. If you are feeling good, without causing harm to others in the process and there was resolution then it was the right choice but if you are feeling drained and nothing was resolved then you need to rethink your strategy. Think of your energy bank as money. You do not give money away freely to anyone. Manage your stress and recharge your energy bank by daily relaxation/mediation, exercise, eat right, get a good night sleep and remember those little annoyances are not worth your energy. Life is already short enough, we need to appreciate life’s moments and enjoy.
I would love to hear how you deal with stress.
For more information read, A Woman’s Heart Attack: What Your Doctor May Not Tell You: What Every Women Needs to Know to Prevent, Recover, and Heal from a Heart Attack. Although, this book was written with the female heart in mind, there are many aspects that are equally important for men recovering and healing from a heart attack or heart failure.
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