Hello friends, and welcome to this month’s Joyinmovement newsletter.
We all want a stress-free life, right? It would be fun to sit around a table with you all, sipping our beverage of choice while discussing whether obtaining a stress-free life is possible, or even good for us. Right now though, let’s have this discussion through this month’s letter.
Before I offer some practical tips let’s take a brief look at the science of stress.
Hans Selye is generally acknowledged as the father of the stress field. It was Selye who, back in 1936, first began piecing together the puzzle of human stress and its effects on us. Discovery of Stress and The Stress of Life are probably his most famous books.
His main thesis is called the General Adaptation Syndrome (G.A.S.). The G.A.S., alternately known as the stress syndrome, is what Selye came to call the process under which the body confronts “stress” (what he first called “noxious agents”). In the G.A.S., Selye explained, the body passes through three universal stages of coping. First there is an “alarm reaction,” in which the body prepares itself for “fight or flight.” No organism can sustain this condition of excitement, however, and a second stage of adaptation ensues (provided the organism survives the first stage). In the second stage, a resistance to the stress is built. Finally, if the duration of the stress is sufficiently long, the body eventually enters a stage of exhaustion, a sort of aging due to wear and tear.
“Stress,” in Selye’s thinking, could be anything from prolonged food deprivation to the injection of a foreign substance into the body, to a good muscular workout. By “stress,” he did not mean only “nervous stress,” but “the nonspecific response of the body to any demand.”
His ideas about stress created an entirely new medical field, the study of the effects of biological stress, and it’s a science that continues to make advances today by connecting stress to illness and discovering new ways to help the body efficiently deal with life’s wear and tear.
What Selye identified is the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal System. This is your complicated internal stress-processing mechanism.
This system, in short, governs the amount and kind of response the body produces to combat a stressing agent. Simplified, the hypothalamus (the bridge between the brain and endocrine system) sends a message to the pituitary gland (a hormone-producing gland embedded in bones at the base of the skull) to release ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone) into the blood stream. This signal prompts the adrenal cortex (located above the kidneys) to create corticoids, another hormone. These corticoids are then dispersed throughout your body where they are needed. Then they are put to use in the various stages of defense against a stressing agent.
With the knowledge of the G.A.S. and hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal system, we can gauge the role of stress in our lives. Are we in the alarm-reaction stage preparing for fight or flight? Or are we building resistance to stress or already in that third stage of exhaustion? It’s important that we understand these stages and recognize them in ourselves. Obviously we don’t want to flow over into the third stage of exhaustion and wear and tear!
And while what stresses us out varies for each of us, let’s talk about a few options for keeping ourselves on a low-stress diet. LSD used to be an acronym for something else, but I’m claiming it for our low-stress diet!
As I mentioned a few paragraphs ago, it starts with self awareness. No judgment needed, just self inquiry. Know what stresses you out. Observe yourself and see what triggers stress responses. When you experience inner conflict, it leads to stress.
Become aware of what stresses you but don’t worry too much about it. That’s not good for you either. Deepak Chopra, in his book Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, says that worrying about stress is more damaging than stress itself! So it’s not what’s happening, but how we think about and handle what’s happening.
One of the things I’ve observed in myself, as well as others, is we get stressed out when things don’t go as we planned and others don’t do what we like them to do. And even when they do, they don’t do it “our” way. It often causes us to feel angry or bitter. Even writing this I can see how silly it is to have expectations like these, but until I shine a light on them and bring them into awareness, I can’t make any changes in my thinking that will help me feel less stress.
Lately I’ve been remembering Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous words: “For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness.” It makes me chuckle because I then think to myself, at my age I can’t afford to lose those 60 seconds!
Another benefit to loosening up on control, besides feeling less stress, is that it creates the space for us to experience that often these “negatives” turn into “positives”. What we thought was the glass half empty turns out to be a glass half full. I know I’ve had plenty of experiences like these and I’m sure you have too. They help us recognize that there just may be some universal balance to the world.
Remember, no matter how many stressors you have in your life, your mental state will always be the most important factor when it comes to experiencing an LSD.
So make your low-stress diet full of goodies that work for you. Eat well, get plenty of fresh air, sleep enough, laugh, and the list could go on and on. I find that breathing works incredibly well. By this I mean BREATHING SLOWER. Research shows that if you slow your breathing to four to six breaths per minute (10 to 15 seconds per breath) it shifts the brain and body from a state of stress to greater self-control. This may be the simplest and easiest activity to use.
Keeping the wear and tear of stress to a minimum is essential for a long and healthy life. And so is………Joyinmovement.