Stress, like steam in a tea kettle needs an escape. You must either release it or turn the heat down. Environmental or emotional, stress is responsible for deteriorating physical diseases such as: high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, depression, sleep disorders, and chronic fatigue.
Most of us are aware of the medical advice to combat stress:
• Take deep breaths
• Get adequate sleep
• Eat healthy
• Exercise regularly
• Get 15 minutes of sunshine daily
• Supplement with vitamins
• Manage your stress
Not only does stress deplete the body, but it exhausts the mind. That brain fog can be counter-productive to managing your health or your productivity. Stress exhausts your creative side and clouds your thinking. In this world that can pummel our serenity, it's easy to fall into overload.
When the fight or flight response is activated, the body increases functions in anticipation of danger. Bodily tasks are slowed in order to reserve energy for muscles. Those functions include: digestion, sexual responses, loss of peripheral vision, diminished hearing, and disengagement of the spinal reflexes. We may become hyper-aware, easily agitated, anxious and aggressive awaiting the attack.
To control our concentration, emotional responses are tightly regulated. These magnificent reactions are designed to protect us when faced with a stalking lion, or charging rhino. When we live always looking for danger or an attack, it programs us to perceive everything as dangerous or a possible threat to our survival.
Our bodies prepare to protect us when situations appear to be out of our control. Our brain struggles to differentiate between actual control issues verses perceived control. Perceived control can cause us to overestimate the threat, and underestimate our ability to manage it. This mental skirmish causes anxiety and/or aggression.
Living in a state of fight or flight more hours in the day than not, you don't have to wonder why we see such an increase in diseases. And adding to the list are emotional dysfunctions, relationship issues, self-medicating addictions and a lack of consequence recognition.
The good news is there's a reason we have five senses. Each one of them brings information to our body and mind in a different way. When we exist in the fight or flight mode as a rule rather than the exception, we drain the senses and data storage system within us. Perhaps we can also reverse the response by encouraging the senses to stand down. I've used this method over and over again with great success.
1) Smell something: Take your nose for a walk, get out of your cubical or office, and smell something different, something soothing: a scented candle, grilled onions, puppy breath, that new car smell. Breathe in deeply.
2) Touch something: The idea is to stimulate your sense of touch beyond the daily sensory overload. Smooth cotton sheets, pet an animal, dig in the dirt, hit a punching bag or squeeze a stress ball. There's no right or wrong touch here, it simply must be different than typical. Or better yet, get a hand and arm massage. Or the whole massage.
3) Taste something: Eat something you normally don't. Take a walk, find a hole in the wall restaurant that is not a typical meal for you. Eat slowly, savor the new textures, smells, seasoning and presentation.
4) Stimulate the Eyes: Change your scenery. If you work in the city, find a park or open space to just look at. Visit an art museum, garden, hilltop or the top of a building. Sit. Take in the view. They say the eyes are the window to the soul, perhaps allow your soul to be refreshed with new sites.
5) Hearing: This one is huge. We've often become so unaware of the noises around us that we don't realize how overstimulated our hearing is. Ever notice when most people vacation, they head for water? I believe there is power in the timing of an ocean wave to reset the body's clock. Like a metronome, the consistent ebb and flow of the surf slows our internal timing. Find a waterfall, a water fountain, or some other rhythmic sound and sit. Music has a way of re-synchronizing us also. The rhythm of your feet running a slow steady pace, or a dance done in 2/4 time rather than 4/4 time may reorganize the fight or flight sprint.
It takes practice to recognize the stresses that trigger your fight mode, but in time learning to be aware may help you to stop the responses before they begin. Learning to quiet our minds, nurture our bodies, and refresh our senses, may help to thwart off unwelcomed diseases invited by overload. Learning to relax and be still, will go a long way to circumventing mental exhaustion. Be happy!
What works for you?