All of us experience stress in our lives and some of us are able to maintain a healthy balance of stress and relaxation. If that balance is lost, then we are in danger of becoming chronically stressed.
What are some symptoms of chronic stress?
- Tense and anxious much of the time
- Chronic muscle tension, usually in the shoulders, face, forehead, jaw and hands
- Elevated heart rate
- Feeling shaky inside, experience skipped heartbeats or have palpitations
- Chronically sweaty palms
- Frequent urges to flee, or impulses to lash out
- Sleep issues for a prolonged period of time
- Chronic digestive issues
- Feeling helpless, overwhelmed
What are some “symptoms” of living well?
- Mentally present most of the time
- Normal heart rate
- Feeling calm, grounded and centred
- Steady hands
- Restful sleep
- Good digestion
- Energized and engaged with life
- Feeling personally powerful and in control of your life
How to get from Stress to Living Well?
The short answer is to change our relationship to stress, including our attitude.
Is the following familiar to you? I find myself over-committed, or I have three days and a ton of things on my plate, or I have to care for my parents, husband and kids and am beginning to feel ragged …. . Whatever it is, it keeps us running both mentally and physically. Then at some point we simply can’t do it anymore, so we blank out. We watch whatever is on TV, play Solitaire, eat something comforting, have a few glasses of wine, take a pill. Then after a few hours or a day (if we haven’t burned out), we launch back into frantic activity once more.
We know that a rest is good, even essential. We may have purchased a few months at a gym or a yoga studio; and when we go, we find it makes us feel good, relaxed even. We know what is healthy and what isn’t, and we often are healthy. But once we are into stress, anything truly healthy takes a back seat.
Why? Because we don’t have time for those things. We don’t have time to prepare good food, to meditate, to go for a slow walk, to do yoga or work out. Those precious hours involved in relaxing and healthy activity could be much better spent, we believe, checking off the next item on our list. And because the list is really endless, we, in fact, spend a lot of days stressing and not really taking care of ourselves.
Stress – anxiety – is often about fear, specifically fear of what we anticipate. It may be based on something that happened in the past; something we lost, some kind of trauma, or it may be based on our beliefs – what we believe we must do or accomplish. When we periodically reach a place that gives us some peace, we want things to stay that way forever. We know it won’t last, and that knowledge adds more stress.
What we need to change, in fact the key to overcoming stress and anxiety, is to change our own attitude and approach to our living. A tall order, but one that is attainable.
Next week I’ll talk about how you can find a less stressed approach to living.
Maryanne Nicholls is a Toronto based, certified Psychotherapist offering a balanced approach to mental health. Please visit www.thejoyofliving.co for information on her services, or contact her directly to find out how she can help you reclaim the joy of living.