Recently I was studying qigong with my esteemed acupuncture colleague and martial artist Chad Bailey, L.Ac. He began our session that day with a story of a documented duo-centurain: a Chinese gentleman who lived over 200 years. When asked how he did it, he replied:
“Well, my diet is kind of terrible. I walk around the mountains all day gathering herbs, and sometimes there isn’t very much to eat.
I do exercise, what with walking around the mountains.
But mostly, I don’t have any stress! I live up here in the mountains, all by myself – no other people!”
I laughed when I heard that, both thinking of the stress city life creates – and also because I thought of the stress I create for myself at times!
Twenty years ago, while I was working my way through engineering school, I went through a time of test anxiety. My student advisor mentioned she thought I should seriously consider taking a stress management class. Even though I respected and appreciated her, I blew off this advice. Why? You got it – because I didn’t have time! I was stressed because I was busy; I was busy because I was trying to pay bills to pay for school; and I was doing poorly on exams because I was stressed! Aaack!
The story of what happened between then and now is a story for another time. Along the way I started realizing how important that whole “stress management” thing is, eventually dedicating my life to mindful healing.
During that time I have realized we can have huge blind spots in life. One of them is that stress can show up in all sorts of places in our body, but we’re busy dealing the with stressful situation so we subconsciously ignore our bodies at the time. Maybe it’s in our minds – like with me and the test anxiety, I would psych myself out. Or it can be in our hearts, with the racing heart of anxiety. It might be trouble falling asleep. But it might just as well show up in our digestive system, like when we have “butterflies in our tummies”, or bloating …or bathroom difficulties that are less pleasant to visualize! Maybe we feel it as a knot in our back. Or we might just feel it as “one more thing to do” mental stress, not think it’s affecting us, and then down the road our liver enzymes are elevated putting at risk for liver cysts, fatty liver disease, or diabetes.
And stress isn’t something that just hits us once in life. Right now, we’re dealing with school being back in session so there’s more to do, and more traffic on the roads. Snowbirds are in town, too, and that increases the population in Sarasota by 80,000. Taxes are due for some of us, and an election is approaching. Many of us have loved ones who are sick or transitioning right now. There are changes in laws, or our retirement funds, or our teeth…all of these things affect us over time.
Wow….that was a pretty stressful paragraph to read, wasn’t it! Here’s *why* I’m putting you through that stress right now: because when we allow ourselves to become aware of how stress affects us, we minimize our blind spots. Then we know what to be attentive to in our bodies. And if we are attentive to it, we are able to get through it much more healthfully.
Here’s my recipe for how to do that:
- Mindfulness: Breathing exercises, meditation
- Activity: Exercise. Even if it’s just a little. Movement is key to keeping the inflammatory compounds created by stress rolling through, rather than getting to a place and sticking.
- Journal, write a letter to a loved one, talk to a friend – whatever your processing system is. Spend some time really checking in with yourself.
- Drink water. I know it seems super simple and basic, but when we’re stressed we forget the basics. Absolutely positively drink water. I just realized I’m due a glass myself right now. (Pause for water)
- Make good choices about food. Inflammation response from sugary or fried foods can wreak havoc with our hormones, influencing our mood -and our ability to make good decisions! It’s a Catch 22!
- Celebrate successes! Maybe even something like, “I mowed the lawn today,” or “I drank all 64 ounces of water today.” …Or sometimes, it’s more of a “Congratulations, me! I put on pants today! Good job Adult-ing!” J
- Take a bliss break. Maybe you *really* need a vacation right now, but can’t take one. So instead, what’s one thing you can do that helps bring you to center? Maybe it’s walking the beach, or watering the flowers, or mowing the lawn. Whatever it is, do it!
- Practice gratitude. Find three things a day to be thankful for. Make one of them very simple, like the sensation of a breeze over your skin.
Rewarding yourself and celebrating the small stuff by practicing gratitude helps rewire the neural pathways in your brain. Each time we focus on positive, we are sending endorphins into our nervous system. That tells our body that things are good, that we’re safe and happy, and THAT SLOWS DOWN THE AGING PROCESS! J
This past week many of you have been so gracious with your supportive words about my own family members in the hospital. Thank you, thank you, thank you so very much.
I am absolutely passionate about you experiencing the amazing capacity your body has to heal itself. I love, every day, seeing cells and bodies light up with health around me.
Oct. 13 at 6:30: “Thyroid Problems? Three Ways to Increase Your Energy Naturally!” at 6:30 p.m. at Longevity Wellness with Dr. Cynthia Clark
Oct. 27th at 6:30 “Feel Better with Food!”
November 1st: Destress with LWC! After you vote, come chill out with us that evening and de-stress while the election results come in.
November 4th: Energy Evolution with Dr. Cynthia Clark