Stress Damages and Wounds Us
It has been said that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. However, decades of body-mind research tell us that stress profoundly interferes with physiological, mental, emotional and spiritual functions; and can, in fact, kill us.
The stress response was extensively researched by Dr. Hans Selye in the nineteen-fifties. He said anything we perceive for whatever reason as a threat to our survival produces a "fight-flight" response; and until that response is shut down, it rules all parts of us and how we respond in our lives.
Our Body, Mind and Spirit Suffers
This leads to fear, anxiety, depression, anger, confusion, defensiveness, aggression, dependency, phobias, withdrawn behavior, helplessness and inability to problem-solve. It can also produce palpitations, irregular breathing, chest pressure, pain, stomach upset, migraines, and difficulty sleeping.
What happens to our spirit when we feel stressed, and especially when we have longstanding and multiple stressors in our lives? We feel a sense of our spirit being damaged, worse about ourselves because of this, separated from our higher self, and trapped.
Five Core Practices to Get Beyond Stress
Can we shut down the stress response? Can we even somehow use the stress response to become stronger, clearer, more aware, and higher functioning? Can we even, in experiencing stress, become closer to our own spirit and sense of higher power?
Here are the the five core practices that I have found over many years produce these results, both in my own life, that has had many difficult challenges; and in helping clients who come to see me with very significant stressors and a critical need to better cope.
#1 - Change Your Breath, Release Your Spirit
You need at least a brief body-mind-spirit break from stress every day. Begin by closing your eyes, settling back into a comfortable and relaxed position, and taking several deep, full, easy, breaths.
As you continue breathing, say to yourself this phrase every time you inhale, Let Be; and every time you exhale, say to yourself this phrase, Let Go. Imagine yourself more and more letting be and letting go. Picture how you can simply, in these moments, let go of all stressors, saying to yourself, I am here now - fully present.
#2 - Stop Violating Yourself by Denying the Power of Your Own Feelings to Heal and Release You
Be honest with yourself about how you feel. At least once a week, take a half hour or more and simply write down how you are feeling without analyzing, or trying to fix anything.
Imagine you are opening a box inside you where all your feelings are, and letting them free to express themselves; and, in their own way, touch you and be released. Say to yourself, I understand and accept my feelings, and I can trust the healing power of my feelings to clear and develop me. Know that directly expressing feelings is a relief, and prevents bottled-up feelings from further increasing stress, as well as from preventing us from acting out our feelings.
#3 - Free Your Body and Your Spirit to Expand to a Higher, Safer Place
Stretch and MOVE on a regular basis. We tend to not do this when we're under great stress, saying we don't have the time for it.
Our bodies can't wait a long time without experiencing the damaging effects of stress. Moving and stretching allows our bodies to release tension, which helps us shake off the stress response; and so our mind will also clear itself and be uplifted.
#4 - Get the Help You Need to Get Through and Beyond
Think about whatever for you are supports in your life, especially when you are experiencing a lot of stress. Make a list of all these possible supports, which also includes doing whatever "takes you away from it all" and gives you a breather, including relationships that are soothing for you.
Include these supports in some way in your life. You're not alone, you deserve to receive, and you have the power to open your mouth and ask for help. Remember, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If not now, when?"
#5 - Eat, Drink, Sleep
Eat enough to get basic nutrition, drink 4 glasses of water a day (stress dehydrates our body), and average whatever for you is enough sleep. Naps are really good relaxers and rechargers too.
Remember, even when we're not stresed, when we don't take care of ourselves enough to meet these basic needs, we throw our body, mind and spirit into a full-blown stress response. Do everything you can to make these activities easy, pleasant and nurturing for you, so as not to be viewed as another burden.
Whatever Stresses Us Teaches Us to Better Be
Finally, all great spiritual traditions tell us life challenges offer us greater opportunities for greater understanding and development. Take some uninterrupted reflective time to think about what your stressors are meant to teach you, and journal about it. That is your best guide to finding real resolution and going forward from a higher place of awareness, personal freedom, and greater insight.
Leonard Cohen wrote:
Ring the bells
that still can ring
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
May your greater light shine more fully for yourself and the world through the "cracks" that come from great stress - All the best, Marjorie