Stress management: experts write about it, post about it, talk about it, Tweet about it and blog about it. Face it – we’re so flooded with great tips and ideas that it is hard to take it all in at times. Here’s the good news: you just need to do one thing every day.
Stress coming at us from all directions
In today’s world, there’s both active and passive stress. Active stress happens from the time we wake up: getting ready and out the door, trying to meet deadlines, financial issues, relationship issues, etc. Then there’s the passive stress: not getting a good night’s rest and downing sugary foods or caffeine to try to boost our energy; trying to wind down with alcohol or medications.
For many, this is all part of normal, everyday life. But exposing ourselves to this much stress is anything but natural.
What’s happening? When we are stressed, our bodies crank up our sympathetic nervous system. That is our so-called “fight or flight” response. Our sympathetic nervous system is designed to respond once in a while. It was intended to kick in on those rare occasions when we are honestly in danger, such as jumping away from the path of a bicyclist. Or in the old days, racing away from an angry bear.
Instead it’s going off all the time. Having our sympathetic nervous system activated so often is the opposite of healing. It leads to all sorts of chronic diseases.
Let’s break the stress cycle
Healing activities, also called parasympathetic activities, are at the opposite end of the spectrum. They are what we do to rest, relax and repair. Our bodies love them, and in this day and age, need them!
Healing activities are different for each of us. Where do you find joy? What do you do to totally unburden yourself? Can you even remember the last time you felt completely relaxed?
For some people, a warm bath is the ultimate healing activity. Others find it totally relaxing to walk outside and look at the wildlife.
The one thing you need to do
At least once a day, “pause the power” on your sympathetic nervous system and engage your parasympathetic system instead. In essence, take a “power pause.” Your goal is to do this for a minimum of just 30 seconds every single day.
I’m not asking you to do anything more than that. But you must be consistent. This is about the quality of your healing activity, not the quantity. Start thinking about when you can squeeze a few relaxing moments into your life. It may take some getting used to!
Perhaps you can do four minutes of deep breathing while your computer boots up each morning. Or throw the ball for your dog. Or read from a book of daily meditations.
Here’s one idea you might relate to: How many times does a friend pop into your mind during the day, and you think “I should really check in with her.” If you don’t take action, it can become a stressor: “It’s the end of the day and I still haven’t called her!” But if you take a few minutes to drop her a note saying, “I was just thinking of you!” you can quickly and easily turn this into a healing activity.
One last piece of advice: Have fun with it! Laughing and smiling are some of the best healing activities.
Dr. Holly Lucille is a licensed naturopathic physician, lecturer, a regular guest on TV and radio shows, and the author of Creating and Maintaining Balance: A Woman’s Guide to Safe, Natural, Hormone Health (Impakt 2004). She also is on the board of The Run a non-profit organization behind Dr. Dennis Godby’s 3,250-mile run across America to increase awareness about natural health care options.
Dr. Holly Lucille, ND, RN, is a nationally recognized naturopathic physician, author, educator, consumer advocate and natural-products consultant. She is on the Worldwide Scientific Advisory Board of VivaPrime, a lifestyle company offering holistic nutritional solutions for specific conditions. You can read her full biography here.