As it is in Yin & Yang, every notion comes with its opposite. Both opposite poles harbor their opposites in themselves; if there’s positive, there is also negative. Day comes along with the night, light comes along with the darkness. The opposites transform into each other in a never ending flux. If this coexistence comes in harmony, it creates a dynamic balance. Therefore, there is no life without stress, but it’s possible to create harmony between stress and peace.
Everything in life is intertwined… Just as how day transforms into night, and summer into winter, these transitions occur within human psyche. And stress triggers take a part in such transitions whether harmoniously or not. To guarantee this harmony, a good stress management is essential.
Light Side of the Stress
Abraham Twerski, MD, who is an American psychiatrist working especially with substance addicts, and also a rabbi, shares a very beautiful anecdote regarding stress. Lobster is a creature that has a very soft body covered inside a very hard shell, and this shell never grows.
So, how does a lobster grow? As it grows, its shell squeezes its body, and the lobster begins to feel uncomfortable under such a heavy pressure. For protection, it hides under a rock, throws away its shell and creates a new shell. Eventually, this new shell begins to feel uncomfortable, and this process repeats many times. Meaning, the triggering factor that helps a lobster to grow is its discomfort of the situation…
If lobsters had doctors, it would visit a doctor when needed; a doctor would give the lobster some medications, probably some anti-depressants, and it would feel better again. It would never change its shell, so it would never grow!…
Therefore, stressful times are actually a sign that let us know we need to grow… Taking the advantage of such stressful triggers and challenges, we grow and improve for better.
Dark Side of the Stress
Well, the positive influence of it aside, how come it goes out of control, and triggers a process inside the body that might even cause chronic sicknesses? By now, all of us know that stress is a number one cause for almost all the sicknesses and diseases. From heart attacks and obesity to high blood pressure to diabetics, from muscle or spine problems to psychological issues, stress is seen as number one reason for many health problems…
In the animal kingdom, between the predator and the prey, the bodies of the animals try to become stronger and faster building themselves up with the effect of hormones. When a prey is out of danger, it calms down and the biological system goes back to normal.
When a human being is under stress, this fight-or-flight response comes into the picture, and it causes various emotions that work with physiological reactions. Dopamine, adrenaline, noradrenalin, cortisol, etc. hormones are secreted. These hormones, increasing the heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, etc, prepares the body for the fight-or-flight response. However, when these hormones are secreted for a long period of time, in addition to sudden physical reactions that are triggered inside the body, also they weaken the immune system, which causes chronic sicknesses and diseases. And these hormonal changes also create the environment inside the body that lead to psychological problems. Even when the stressors disappear, chronic strain remains if the stressful situation continues. Thus, it harms the person both physiologically and psychologically. Stressors can cause micro or macro level traumas. And with these traumas, while it causes various health problems for the person, also come various disturbances in the daily life routines and behavioral patterns. That’s why the old traumas and tensions held inside the body should be resolved in addition to momentary relaxations.
The Solution is Regular Practice
Today, there are many different disciplines, techniques, methods, and practices that bring solid results when it comes to stress management. You can attend to stress management training programs, and learn a lot about what works for you or not. However, unless you keep up the good work with the practices afterwards, theory will not do enough for you, whereas it may even feel uncomfortable when you have the knowledge that you don’t turn into practice. What matters is to internalize what you know and use it in your daily life.
1. Create balance between giving and taking
Greet before being greeted, and be generous with your compliments before you get one. Give your love, attention and appreciation with no expectation of return. Enrich the lives of others. Give with gratitude, and accept what you’re given with gratitude.
2. Be grateful
Your life that you complain all the time might be dream for others, so be grateful. Let the positive feelings that come from gratitude shine in your own life.
3. Be in the nature
As you walk away from nature, you walk away from yourself. Be in the nature regularly, have walks, go for tracking, and observe the life in the nature.
Create moments and opportunities to be by yourself. A few minutes every day, a few hours every week, a few days every month, and a few weeks every year, just retreat to yourself.
5. Take warm showers
Water purifies, refreshes, and renews you both physically and emotionally. Take warm showers every morning and every night.
6. Love unconditionally and freely
Love is the greatest medicine; so love yourself first. Of course there are others around you who you love and care, but check yourself to see if you’re expectant for a return or you’re free? It doesn’t have to be romantically… Can you love unconditionally and freely an animal, a plant, nature, the Creation, a lover, a spouse, a friend, a child, yourself, a neighbor, those people who came and went through your life, leaving things or memories behind, all helping your grow bigger and better?
7. Transform the hatred
Hatred is on the other end of love. As it is in Yin & Yang, hatred dwells in love, and love dwells in hatred. And these two can transform into each other every moment. If your love is based on the conditions, it can turn into hatred any moment. With the help of regular daily exercises, diminish the hatred and anger, transforming into positivity.
8. Do regular breathing exercises
As the brain is in the beta wave, it’s under pressure, and trapped by worries and fear. Every morning and night, close your eyes for 10 minutes, and practice diaphragm breathing, and then deep chest breathing techniques. Using these techniques, create alfa waves in your brain, and experience the peace that is created by this serenity. Also, you can ask for help of an expert therapist to resolve some old traumas, using various and powerful breathing techniques. In short, ventilate your body, mind, emotions, and soul through breathing.
9. Get in action with physical activities
Exercise without pushing your physical limits. Remember to do stretching in addition to strengthening exercises. Work and stretch your muscles regularly. Dance is also a very good way.
Every morning and every night, meditate for at least 15 minutes. After cleansing yourself through breathing, and relaxing the body through fitness, dance, stretching or whatever you like doing, meditation helps you to cleanse your conscious mind, refreshing and rejuvenating you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Neurologist Sara Lazar points to the fact that, based on the results of a clinical research, the amygdale that is responsible for fight-or-flight response in the brain becomes smaller, and the part that is related to empathy, compassion, and love grows bigger. This is the scientific evidence that shows regular meditation decreases stress and increases affection. Meditation may change your brain and help you to reshape it.
11. Exercise relaxation
If you fall asleep with the tension of the day will dampen the quality of your sleep. Before going to sleep, which is meant to be a time for physical and spiritual rejuvenation, listen to some soft, relaxing music, feel the tensed parts inyour body, and consciously relax those parts one by one through breathing. From ancient teachings to our modern techniques, while the methods may differ, the results are still the same actually.
With the hope for each of us to find a way to manage the stress in our lives…
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More tidbits coming in future articles, meant to spur you on to create momentous moments!
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