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Our modern lifestyles are such that we have come to accept stress as a normal part of our lives.
“Stress is normal“ is often a repeated phrase. If we see someone who is not stressed, we tend to believe something is wrong with the person.
Stress manifests itself in many ways. It causes physical discomfort in the form of headaches, backaches, nausea, and other ailments. But, it also affects us mentally and emotionally. If we do not address the early symptoms of stress, it slowly grows within us and can cause illness and disease (diabetes, hypertension). And, on the mental level, it can cause depression, anxiety, psychosis, and other psychological disorders.
When we suffer from health conditions like hypertension or diabetes, we treat them with medication. It helps regulate them superficially. However, these medications do not address the root cause: stress. As a result, we become dependent on the medicines and continue with our attitude of getting stressed.
People have several reasons for staying stressed and may say or think:
>> “You don’t know what I am going through!”
>> “I have to put up with such difficult people that it is impossible not to get stressed.”
>> “My job is so demanding!”
>> “My kids are not in my control!”
Ever since I have learned to manage my stress levels and stay undisturbed in many situations, people tell me, “You have it easy, so you don’t get stressed!” or “You don’t know how tough it is to put up with different kinds of people!”
According to society, I should be stressed with a capital S. Earlier in life, I worked, raised two kids, managed the difficulties in different relationships, and got back into the corporate world after a sabbatical of 20 years. I now manage a household, write books, and run a content writing business.
But I believe that stress is a state of mind, and we can condition the mind.
My personal experience has been to condition my mind to think that I am not stressed. And, this has worked like magic. Today, I can face the toughest of situations in a composed manner and tackle them much better than I would have done a few years ago—the time when I believed that stress was normal.
Let me explain what happens in our bodies when we experience a stressful situation.
When we are exposed to a stressful situation, our adrenal glands, located above our kidneys, release several hormones. Two of the important ones are cortisol and adrenaline.
Cortisol is a primary stress hormone. It increases the sugar levels in our bloodstream. It also increases the brain’s need for glucose. Besides, it impacts our immune system and surpasses digestive and reproductive systems and growth processes.
Adrenaline increases heart rate and blood pressure and boosts energy supplies.
This is the natural body response to stress triggers. The good news is that all our vitals come back to normal when the stressful situation passes. However, the problem is when we are constantly in a state of stress—because this makes it difficult for boosted levels of blood pressure and glucose to subside.
This is the reason that we experience various health conditions. And, this is why we need to address our stress.
The first step for managing stress is identifying what triggers cause us stress and then addressing each of these triggers individually. However, there are some general ways for conditioning our minds to manage stress.
Five tips for conditioning the mind to manage stress:
We get so caught up with our daily activities that exercising falls low on our list of priorities. Often, we complicate exercise by wanting to do too many things or overexerting. This is another thing that makes us put off exercise as an arduous task. We also may expect instant results in terms of weight loss or bodybuilding. When these things do not happen, we lose interest.
While exercising does a whole lot of good physically, it is also good for the mind. Any physical activity boosts metabolism, improves blood circulation, releases hormones. All these have a positive impact on our minds. The benefits of exercising cannot be measured by any metrics. But if we make exercising a part of our routine, we can slowly and surely experience the benefits. The keyword here is “slowly.” We have to be patient, and it will show its effects.
About three years ago, I had to give up my job because of stiffness and severe backache. It was almost impossible for me to sit and work for more than an hour. I had to undergo physiotherapy. And, my therapist taught me specific back strengthening exercises. I have been doing them consistently for three years now.
Today, I have reached a stage where I can work for hours without any issues. The flexibility in my back is better than ever before, and I can bend down and touch the floor with my palms. None of these things happened instantly. It has taken me years of consistent exercising. There were times when I felt like giving up because I couldn’t see any change, but it was happening nonetheless.
This is an example of the benefits of exercising. It need not be a strenuous exercise. We can start by making it a pleasant experience so that we look forward to our exercise time. Soon it will become a part of our life, and we will miss it on the days we do not exercise.
While the physical effects of exercise may take longer to show up, we will find that our mood will get better with even 30 minutes of daily movement, and we will feel lighter.
2. Fresh air and sunlight.
Living in the digital age, we are stuck most of the time indoors. Fresh air and sunshine have become things to be experienced only on holidays and vacations. We can make our life a never-ending vacation by experiencing fresh air and sunshine. They are freely available and do not cost a dime. And, it is a beneficial transaction because we get plenty of vitamin D when we expose ourselves to sunlight which, again, has a significant role in building physical immunity and regulating mood.
“I don’t have time for meditation” or “I don’t know how to meditate” are some common reasons why people do not meditate. How about starting the practice of meditation without expecting anything in return?
All we need to do to get started is sit down calmly without any noise and distractions for a few minutes and watch our breath. We may find it hard to focus on our breath, and our mind might wander off into an endless stream of thoughts, but that’s okay.
When we sit in silence, we may not experience anything phenomenal, but we are calming our minds by slowing down the pace of our thoughts. This will bring clarity to our thinking and improve our mood, as well as our overall efficiency.
Nearly 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. The statistics on insomnia are a cause of concern. Many people who have insomnia do not take it seriously. But, again, there are reasons for lack of sleep—work pressure, kids, assignments, projects, social media.
Insomnia has far-reaching effects on the body and the mind. It also impacts the daytime activities of an individual and can lead to fatal accidents due to poor judgment. For instance, lack of sleep can disturb our focus while driving the next day. It is also possible that we may doze off while driving, which could prove fatal.
Sleep is the time when the body goes into repair mode, and the mind heals. Lack of sleep directly impacts our body and mind. It is a significant cause of mental conditions. It can also disturb our thinking and affect our activities. If we feel that we are not sleeping enough for several days in a row, it is best to consult a sleep specialist and get it treated.
5. Practice gratitude
I have found practicing gratitude to be one of the most effective strategies to de-stress. Often, our stress is caused because we are focusing too much on what we lack. We can develop the mindset of abundance if we practice gratitude.
If we list down things we are grateful for, we will condition our minds to think about what we have instead of what we don’t. If we do this every night before going to bed, we will have a better state of mind while sleeping and improve sleep quality.
We can practice gratitude at the start of the day to boost our mood early in the morning so that we start our day on a positive note.
Finally, it is all about the mind. It is about empowering ourselves and conditioning our minds whether we let stress make us or break us.