What is stress? It’s fear of the future or unease and anxiety about the past.
Perhaps you fear the possibility you will fail – fail to meet a deadline or live up to what you perceive people expect from you.
Perhaps you fear that you have already failed and you spend a lot of time analysing past events wondering if you’ve met the imaginary benchmark that makes you worthy – worthy of love.
Fear is not always bad, it can spring us into action, but persistent stress or fear taxes our mental and physical health.
Does any of this sound familiar? If so, you are not alone.
“Monkey Mind” is common to us all:
“Monkey mind refers to the incessant chatter that goes on in our heads which, if unchecked, can drive us nuts (excuse the pun!)(1)”
Too much chatter is exhausting and can build up and manifest as illness or a deep sense of unhappiness. When we are down we are less likely to exercise, socialise or eat well, even though we know those things will make us feel better.
So what do we do about it? How do we take back the present and reclaim a deep sense of wellbeing?
Is Any of This Your Typical Day?
From the moment you wake up you are busy; your alarm goes off and still half asleep you barely have a moment to check in with yourself before you start reading e-mails, Facebook and the news. Either this or your deep sleep pattern is broken by the demands of family life.
Suddenly you leap out of bed, still tired and now running late. You shouldn’t have stayed up to watch that show or movie while scanning your laptop, phone or tablet (more stimuli) but it is a habit, a way to wind down, even though you know you’ll regret it in the morning.
The rest of your day is spent wrestling with traffic, work overload and constant input. At some point you’ll take a break from work, you could go for a walk or get some fresh air but it’s likely you’ll jump on Facebook or read the news– the news gets you down, you go for coffee and cake to boost your mood.
After work you head into your evening routine of organising dinner, and possibly studying or feeding/showering/helping kids with homework.
You eventually fall on the couch in front of the TV with a glass or three of wine and dessert to ‘relax’. You check your phone, emails and facebook. You’ve finally wound down, so you decide to stay up late, again.
Has Stress Become Your Identity?
Do you feel like a failure unless you are busy? Does it make you feel like you are in control or important? Do you even fill up your holiday time with distractions and schedules? If so, it is because your brain is now conditioned or wired to be busy.
“While cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it’s important that the body’s relaxation response is activated so the body’s functions can return to normal following a stressful event.
Unfortunately, in our current high-stress culture, the body’s stress response is activated so often that the body doesn’t always have a chance to return to normal, resulting in a state of chronic stress.(2)”
Many high achievers will tell you that they have a routine and make time for activities that relax their nervous system such as exercise, eating slowly, breathing deeply, gardening or other hobbies.
It not only helps them sustain a busy lifestyle but also make decisions that lead to ongoing success and a general sense of wellbeing.
Developing healthy habits that last takes time – small incremental changes that help you think, sleep and feel better are the formula for a better life.
Consider ways you might lower your stress levels and surround yourself with people and places that can help you on your journey. And remember, you are unique with your own level of stress tolerance, so stop comparing yourself to others and identify what works for you.
Angela Gawthorne – Mobile Personal Training Specialist Perth