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Life’s chaos are like ribbons.
They wave and dance in and out of your life but, when some of those ribbons brush up against your skin? WHAM!
A sting of pain — Some of those ribbons have thorns and others may feel like sandpaper and others get wrapped around you, holding your down and not letting you walk forward in life.
Another word for life’s chaos? Stress.
As my friend, Katie, and I sat and talked, I brought up the word “harmony” and how harmony resonates with me when talking about stress, rather than referring to stress as balanced or managed. Katie’s face softened, a smile emerged, and a glimmer of resonance filled her face as she sunk into the concept of stress harmony.
Here is the real deal — life is chaotic. It is never truly balanced and nor should it be. We need to have stress to fuel our drive to be great.
We need to have stress to inspire us to create.
We need to have stress to persevere. But the question is, where is your line in the sand?
Stress only truly becomes toxic and burdensome when it is either heavy and negative or when it becomes chronic. When life hands us lemons and we decide to suck on the lemon instead of turning it into lemonade, that’s when harmony flies right out the window.
That’s when we feel overwhelmed and frustrated and out of control.
We all know that too much chronic stress is unhealthy for us. Every Tom, Mary, and Joe tells us so. But on a deeper level, stress can set up us for future pains and aches and major health issues. Immediately, you might experience:
- Low energy
- Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
- Aches, pains, and tense muscles
- Chest pain and rapid heartbeat
- Frequent colds and infections
- Loss of sexual desire and/or ability
- Food cravings
- Depression and other mood imbalances
- Blood sugar imbalances
But, in the long term, you may experience:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Weakened immune system
- Sexual dysfunction
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Skin irritation
- Respiratory infections
- Autoimmune diseases
- Anxiety disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD
- Alzheimer’s or Dementia
Stress is not just physical or mental/emotional, there is so much more that can cause stress in your life. Stressful situations are energy and how you perceive those situations directly affect your own personal energy — good or bad. The key to bringing it into harmony is to address it in real time — not just when you get a chance or when your schedule allows for it. It is easy to forget and push it aside, downplaying the effect that it has on you. This is the first step of letting it get out of control.
Here are 5 easy ways you can get back into harmony from a mind, body, and soul perspective:
- Get grounded. Grounding, aka Earthing, has gotten much attention. Research has shown that grounding neutralizes free radicals, improves sleep, decreases pain, decreases stress, improves inflammation, strengthens the immune system, just to name a few benefits. And it is easy to do — all you have to do is get your bare feet or hands in dirt or on a natural surface to reap the benefits. Getting grounded is essential to start healing your stress. Check out my blog on grounding to get all the details.
- Explore nature. Nature has a calming effect that can instantly decrease our stress levels. Spending time in nature can help relieve stress and anxiety, improve your mood, and boost feelings of happiness and wellbeing. Whatever you call it — forest bathing, ecotherapy, mindfulness in nature, green time or the wilderness cure — humans evolved in the great outdoors, and your brain benefits from a journey back to nature. Take a bike ride around your neighborhood or check out local trails to go hiking. Simply sit out on your porch or in your yard. Or you can…
- Go for a walk. It is well known that moving the body improves your health, but being strategic in how you use exercise to manage your stress levels is key. When the body is stressed, it is already in a very heightened state. Engaging in exercise that is too aggressive or that will raise the stress levels even more (yes, exercise does place stress on the body) may not be what your body needs when trying to calm down. Going for a walk is a great way to move the body, loosen the muscles, increase feel-good endorphins to the brain, and give you thinking time to work through your stressful problems. Start with 15 minutes and increase it as you can.
- Practice gratitude. Being grateful and being stressed can not co-exist. They simply can not happen at the same time because they are on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. When you are feeling stressed, take a moment to breathe and then practice gratitude for the things that are good in your life. Stress is all perspective and when you actively and consciously make an effort to change your perspective towards gratitude, you begin to break the chain of negative thinking, opening your thoughts and your brain to being able to figure out how to work through your stressful situation. Practicing gratitude is super easy! You can simply start saying out loud what you are grateful for and why or you can pull out your journal and write it down. Need more ideas of how to practice gratitude? Check out my infographic here.
- Breathe and reframe. The breath is powerful. A shallow, tight breath increases the body’s stress and an open, deeper breath can instantly calm the body. Learning how to expand the breath to come from the entire torso rather than just the chest is a great tool to use in the moment of stress. How do you do it? Take 5-10 deep breaths allowing your torso to expand in all directions (like you are trying to create a barrel shape). Breath in for 4 counts, hold for 4 counts, and exhale for 4 counts. But it doesn’t stop there. Since stress is about a person’s perspective on the situation, it is even more powerful to couple breathing and reframing the mindset in real time. I like doing this with power statements. For example, Perform the breath described above and immediately say a power statement such as “I am in control.” Repeat the process until you have completed all the breaths. You can use the same power statement or a different one, it really is about what you need in that moment.
Learning how to take back control of your stress is possible. Living in a chaotic world does not have to be. Stress is all about perspective — when you can learn how to calm down your body and reframe your perspective, life starts to open up!
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