Stress is annoying. It’s this crazy automatic human ancestral thing that messes with our minds and bodies. Something happens and suddenly your body reacts as if it is under attack, fight or flight.
We don’t have the same dangers as when we were hunting or gathering, but our physiology assumes we do. This physical response continues until we give our body and mind a break to recharge from the perceived attack. We need to let our system know that we’re safe. If we don’t turn off the stress response system, stress becomes chronic and then your at greater risk of physical complications.
This is where the myriad of stress management techniques come in. Ones that tell you to breathe deep, count backward, twist yourself into a pretzel, say affirmations, meditate, and all sorts of other holistic stuff.
Some of that is great. I’ve felt more centered after sweating through 90 minutes of yoga. Other stuff can actually cause you more stress, say, trying to keep your mind clear in meditation. Did you also just spend 30 minutes thinking about food coupled with scolding to focus on the breath?
What most people fail to see in stress management techniques is the mechanism that makes them address the unique problem of stress.
The assumption with stress is that you are under attack, be it from a wild mountain lion, or waaay too many e-mails. You body assumes that it is going to have to either defend itself, fight, or run like mad, flight. Both of those things require all of the energy you’ve go. Every last ounce of it.
The whole point of stress management is to renew your energy. That’s it. It has nothing to do specifically with yoga, meditation or a long walk. It is only about replacing the depleted energy from the stress response.
Here’s your permission. Ready? You don’t have to do “relaxy” stuff that you don’t enjoy. If you don’t enjoy it, it takes more energy which is completely counterproductive to stress management.
The way to deal with stress is to find a few things that give you energy. Once that make you feel lighter, happy, in-tune, rested and motivated. Here’s the criteria to consider:
- You need to feel more energetic after you do them. (Is three hours watching TV on the couch really restful? Or do you feel more tired?)
- There is at least one you can work into your daily routine. (Singing to your favorite CD during the morning commute.)
Actually go right now and write down all of the things that give you energy. The silly ones and the serious ones. Playing with the dog, cup of hot coco, twinkling lights, sitting in the sun, hiking, dancing, chatting with an old friend, …
Got the list? Great, choose one thing that you will commit to do every day. Pick a time, and choose a day to start.
Making the list now will insure that it is one of these actions you will take when you’re stressed as opposed to the all too easy go-to’s of cookies and the remote.
Your body needs a break from stress, not just once, but every day. No matter how you do it, remember to refill your depleted cup.
What are your favorite ways to deal with stress?