The last post dealt with taking responsibility for our health. It's a concept that's uniquely foreign to millions in the United States, but it's a concept that's very simple. It comes down to two factors:
1.) Eliminating stress
2.) Making better lifestyle choices
They sound simple and easy on paper, or on the computer screen, but there's more to it than just words. Today we'll look at the first part of that responsibility equation, eliminating stress
The Truth About Stress
Stress is a thought, plain and simple. You can't pluck stress out of the air on a windy day. You can't eat stress on a greasy taco from Rolberto's Taco Shack. Stress is not going bite you on the nose and infect you.
Stress is all you. Or me.
It's all how we perceive things. Remember the old saying that life is "10% what happens to us and 90% how we handle it." We all experience ups and downs. The problem is that in our society, with all the talk of war, economic disparity, health insurance woes, and political unrest, the downs seem to outweigh the ups. Add in a stressful job, a relationship on the rocks, or car trouble (my personal nightmare), and that can add up to some serious stress.
Our bodies were designed to handle stress in small amounts, namely "fight or flight." If a hungry lion is stalking toward you, or you're walking around the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, TX at midnight, you either turn and run or you stay and defend yourself. The truly amazing thing is that the human body can mobilize itself in an instant to make fight or flight possible. Here's how:
Dilated pupils- gives us the ability to take in more of our surroundings.
Pounding heart- sends more blood than usual to muscles so that we can move faster.
Cold, sweaty skin and a pale face- because all the blood is getting sent to the muscles.
Rapid, deep breathing- sends more oxygen to the muscles, so that they can work longer.
Decreased digestion- blood is sent away from the GI system to the muscles in the arms and legs. Digesting that pizza can wait!
Increased release of epinephrine and norepinephrine- gives us that "surge of adrenaline" to sprint or strike!
But what happens when, instead of a lion, we have years of arguing and fighting in a marriage, or we work 70 hours a week for years at a high pressure job? Suddenly, you don't want your pupils dilated all the time, or adrenaline surging through your body.
Eventually, all these stress reactions will bring on high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, hyperthyroidism, and/or a whole list of diseases too extensive to name here.
The Eight Secrets
The key is knowing that stress is a response, emotionally and physically, and not something that just happens to us because fate has deemed it so.
What if the situation you're in is simply too demanding for you to shrug your shoulders and say "Whatever happens, happens?" I've been through chiropractic school and taken countless exams. I've had to find a way for student loans to last four months at a time and support a wife and three kids. We all have different situations that can cause us concern from time to time. We also have the ability to do some things to minimize the stress we might be feeling.
1.) Get Specific Chiropractic Adjustments-Stress is one of the main initiating causes, if not the main cause, of a vertebral subluxation. Having a subluxation of the upper cervical spine can really make a person's life miserable if not corrected. Over time, a subluxation can really add to someone's stress. If someone is experiencing dis-ease and it interferes with their daily function, the added stress will only worsen this vicious cycle. So first things first- get your upper cervical spine checked for a subluxation, and if you have one, get it corrected immediately.
2.) Exercise- For me, an intense workout is just the cure for a stressful day. Whether it's a 3-mile run, or numerous body weight exercises, or a session of weight-lifting, I always feel better. Exercising releases neurotransmitters throughout our body that help us feel great. Not to mention, if you workout regularly, the changes you'll see in the mirror will start to give you some confidence and raise your self esteem.
3.) Meditate- Some people meditate by chanting. Some meditate by sitting still and clearing their minds of all thoughts. Others meditate by praying. No matter what form of meditating you do, do it in a quiet place for about 20-30 minutes. You will have more sanity to effectively handle the stress you might face that day. In my experience, the best time to meditate is early in the morning around 4-5 am. But getting up early means you need more of #4.
4.) Sleep- Ah, sleep. Such a precious commodity, at least it is in my home. With small kids in the house, this isn't always possible in the way that my wife and I would like. But if you don't have small kids, then there is no excuse for getting to bed early. As the old adage goes "Early to bed, early to rise makes you healthy, wealthy, and wise." If you have the lights turned off by 10 pm each night, eventually you won't need an alarm. You'll get deep, restful sleep and you will automatically wake up around 4-5 am, 6 am at the latest. If you're well-rested, things don't get to you as much, and your brain is better equipped to logically deal with problems that might arise during the course of your day.
5.) Get Organized- Get your life in order and it will be one less thing to worry about. Get a daily planner, or if you're digitally-minded, a PDA, and organize your days and weeks. Get a file cabinet and file away all your important paperwork such as bills, receipts, and personal records. Backup all the work you do on a computer onto CDs in case your computer crashes. Doing all this will bring you peace of mind and keep you from worrying about finding time for everything.
6.) Be On Time- Leave early. Aim for getting to wherever you have to be 15 minutes early. This was a big one for me. I was always late for years. I always aimed for getting to work, school, or church right when I was supposed to be there. And chances are that I never got there when I was supposed to get there. Leaving early gives you time to drive without stress, even if there is a pile-up on the freeway. You won't have to lay on the horn as you inch along while cussing and screaming at the top of your lungs at the rubbernecker in front of you. It gives you the opportunity to stroll into work or school peacefully and organize your materials for the day without rushing around like a chicken with its head cut off..
7.) Quit Watching the News- News channels make their money preying on the fears of the public. You never see good news, mainly because it doesn't make money. You don't hear about the thousands of planes that landed safely around the world each and every day. You hear about the one that crashed. You hear about the pilots, the passengers, the crash site, etc. over and over again until the next catastrophe arises somewhere else. Sex sells, and so does bad news. If you want to reduce your stress, quit watching this garbage. I'm not saying to go hide in a cave, but just be selective and brief with what you decide to follow. You don't always need the details.
8.) Have Sex- You're probably reading this last one with a dirty-minded smirk, but the truth is I would not be saying this if more than 50% of marriages weren't failing these days. And of the marriages that don't fail, many of them are not happy unions. Talk about stressful! I'm not talking about going out to the club and taking home whoever comes along. I'm talking about being in a healthy, monogamous relationship where two people love each other. When you love your partner, it makes sex that much better, and chances are, you will have it more frequently. It's hard to be stressed out if you have a good sex life!
If you sit down and make it a goal to do each and every one of these things, I can promise you that your stress will dramatically decrease, maybe even disappear. But as I said before, it won't be easy. You have to take the action, not just once, but every day, over and over again.