"A diamond is is a piece of charcoal that handled stress exceptionally well."
Unfortunately the effects of common stress on people do not have such great results. Chronic stress results in increased level of the hormones cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. In the short term, they are part of the fight or flight response and responsible for our survival behavior. Chronically they lead to elevated heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes. Chronic stress affects our mental well being, increasing anxiety and depression. It causes digestive problems, diarrhea, constipation, and gastric ulcers. Stress leads to insomnia, hair loss and is a cause of autoimmune disorders. Chronic stress is bad for us and we need to shift our internal dialogue in order to manage it.
I have personally struggled with chronic stress. Eighteen months ago, I was working full time as an anesthesiologist, but hand pain and loss of hand strength from arthritis made my job impossible to do. In order to fix this injury, I had corrective hand surgery. It did not go well. After surgery, I developed shingles around my eye and on my forehead. The shingles wiped me out for three months and left me with residual headaches, lots of trips to neurologists, medications that didn't work, and fifteen pounds of weight gain. My hand pain did not resolve, so I had another surgery six months later. A year has passed with lots of hand therapy and my left hand is still painful and not functional- I can't turn a door knob, open a bag of chips, or lay my palm flat, and so I am having revision surgery tomorrow. Talk about stress! I was laid off of work, navigated disability, started a new business, COVID-19, social unrest, and now I go back to the beginning with more surgery. So I have had palpitations, insomnia, digestive issues, headaches...I have needed to consciously let go of my stress.
So how do we minimize chronic stress from destroying our well being? Exercise, whether it's a run, walk, or yoga class, is a reset for our body and mind. Last night, I made a conscious effort to drag out my mat and take an online yoga class, and I felt so much better after an hour of connecting my breath and movement. Meditation is clinically proven to decrease heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety and stress. Eat balanced meals of real food. "Real food" is what you find at the farmers market or around the perimeter of the grocery store. It is whole food that comes from the ground or has a mother and is not full of chemicals or additives. Spend time with friends and family. Social interaction with people who can bring a smile to your face, who validate you and make your heart happy is an instant stress relief. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
We need to shift our thinking from control to acceptance. We cannot control our environment, as control is really just an illusion. We need to live in the moment, not worry about the next moment. Read a book, dance, or listen to music. Anything that calms the mind or will bring you a smile, will decrease anxiety. Light a candle, apply calming essential oils, breathe deeply, and simply be. Let go of what doesn't serve or nourish your well being. Let go of stress.
Stay well, stay calm,