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This blog is about---You! Each and every post is about you. Use it to challenge your usual patterns, as a tool for self-discovery, to stimulate your thinking, to learn about yourself and to answer your questions about others.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Stressed Out!!!

     It's About the Journey, Not the Destination

 Rush, rush, rush!!!  Hurry, hurry.  Get it right.  Don't forget.  Keep going.  Be on time.  Feeling:  Angry.  Pressured.  Wistful.  Envious.  Worried.  Tired.  Does any of this sound familiar?  
How about this as a sample workday:  Get up with the alarm clock whether you're still tired or not.  Shower and dress.  Make breakfast because studies show that people who eat breakfast are leaner.  Make lunch because it saves money and time (can work at desk).  Lay out the complicated supplement regimen (an effort to stave off the physical symptoms that are starting to creep up).  Jump in the car for the commute-traffic, people doing dangerous things with their cars in order to inch ahead, tension everywhere. 
Make it to work on time---whew! Work 8 hours, work through lunch, sitting for too many hours, trying to please your boss, trying to calm your subordinates, trying to  have decent interactions with your peers, feeling the competition, feeling impatient, noticing deadlines.  Eat cookies someone put in the break room--feel guilty.  
Back to the commute:  On the road with a lot of grumpy, worn out, not alert drivers.  Tense, trying to make it home safely.  Pick up the kids.  In the door, have one too many drinks in an effort to relax.  Get dinner on, go for a run (exercise regimen), try to make it to the community meeting that you know is so important.  Prepare kids for tomorrow.  Fall into bed.  Can't sleep, too wired up.  Sleeping pill.
Does this sound anything like your workday?  So many people are living like this now.  This is why we have so much research being done and so many articles being written on stress reduction.
Our bodies are actually built to react to stressors.  Humans have always faced stressors.  The problem to us, physically, is when the stress is unremitting.  If we can face a stressor, go through the challenge, and then recuperate---no problem.  However, day after day like the one described above can lead to high blood pressure, headaches, digestive problems, chronic back pain, and worse.
"Here's how it works in your body:  ...When you're faced with a major stressor,..."  "...a hormone ...signals your adrenal glands to release the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn gets your adrenaline cranked up (adrenaline is the fight-or-flight hormone).  All of this is fine and good for a while (the increased heart rate and blood pressure get you away from any predator), but if the stress doesn't stop, this flood of chemicals turns against you---compromising your immune system, exhausting your adrenal glands, throwing your cholesterol levels out of whack, and causing you to crave sugar and syrups that age you....And guess what?  Financial stresses and work stresses aren't onetime muggers,...chronic stress has real potential for pummeling your insides." (from the book YOU Being Beautiful by Roizen and Oz)
Information about how destructive on-going stress is to us physically and, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, abound.  So, rather than go on about that here,---let's shift to, what can (realistically) be done about it:

  • Small things that you enjoy; keep them around; a collection of baseball cards that you can pull out of your desk and peruse, daydream for a couple of minutes?  Like flowers?  Studies have shown that colorful flowers boost mood and have a relaxing effect.
  • Break up your tasks.  If you work repetitively at one task, forcing yourself to continue until it's finished, you will bore, tire and overtax yourself; if you can't take a breather, at least shift from one task to another so you have some variety in your activity.
  • Try not to use food as a drug, to get relief from feeling overextended.  Eat foods that you like which are also good for you.
  • If you have to make a major change (such as moving or changing to a new position at work), help yourself with the transition:  Familiarize yourself with the new location or new duties as far in advance as possible.  Give yourself some time to be sad about what you are leaving behind.  Encourage yourself to think positively about the new home or job.
  • Caffeine is not a bad thing.  In fact, there are some good things about tea and coffee (anti-oxidents, for example), but just use it in moderation. 
  • Therapy can be very helpful for "venting" as one of my clients put it, or, helping you to design a set of small changes which can work for you as stress busters.
If your job can be personally meaningful, challenging, and offer some autonomy (all stress-lowering), great.  But, if that is not your situation, see if there is some part of your own work situation where you can feel in control.
Every Yoga class ends with S'avasana which is resting flat out
on your back, not sleeping, but consciously relaxing and taking a time out.

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