Inquiry Based Stress Relief
Have you ever stressed out about something you think other people want you to do? Watch as this man questions the thought, “I’m not living up to my full potential.” Funny how we let our minds convince us our thoughts are true that may not be true at all. And then, those thoughts become beliefs we act on or at least stress and worry about so much it can begin to affect our health and well-being.
A dear friend reminded me of the importance the mind has on the physical body’s health. When your thinking is contaminated with stressful thoughts, that stress can come out in many different ways and manifest in your body. Your immune system may be weakened and unable to fight off infections. You may not be able to sleep with the thoughts churning in your mind. When you do not have a way to deal with those thoughts, the only alternative is to find a way to escape from them. Maybe it’s with eating to numb the mind, turning to drugs or alcohol, escaping from the pain with prescription medications (narcotics, antidepressants, etc.), sex, smoking, watching TV, too much exercise or not enough exercise. These addictions, where you turn to escape from the pain, may eventually lead to obesity, heart disease, cancer, dependence on drugs and alcohol and the list goes on and on.
If you had to choose, would you rather have a healthy body or a healthy mind? As Byron Katie says, “I hope you chose mind because bodies don’t make it.” Heal your mind and notice if the body follows. Start by just noticing what thoughts you are having in the moments before you turn to your escape, whatever that is for you.
“I’m not good enough.” “My body shouldn’t be hurting.” “I am alone.” “I’m too fat.” “I have too much to do.”
If we are honest, we all have them…just notice.
A study done in 2003 showed that 80% of Americans reported feeling stressed out. Are you one of them? Take a look at what being stressed can do to your body. Chronic stress can alter our biochemical state and have major effects on our health.
Being stressed puts our bodies in the “fight or flight” state which leads to high levels of cortisol and adrenaline. When we are under chronic stress, the secretion of these hormones takes precedence over other functions like digestion, cellular repair, immune function, reproduction and liver function and detoxification. So we end up with poor blood sugar control, sleep disruption, carbohydrate cravings (which worsens the poor blood sugar control), reduced metabolism, reduced thyroid function, alterered sex hormone activity, infertility, depression, alcohol and drug abuse. Your immune system doesn’t work as well to fight off infections. Stress has even been linked to heart disease.
Basically our bodies are in a state of hormonal imbalance and we simply are not able to function like we want to. Not only that, but stress is also known to decrease the brains functionality causing difficulty thinking and solving problems or a loss of memory. And, after a long time of your body pumping out so much cortisol and adrenaline eventually it wears out and chronic fatigue sets in.
So as you can see, stress is not something to just blow off by saying “things will calm down when the kids are back in school” or “as soon as I get this project done at work my stress level will be a lot less.” You are just continuing the cycle and setting yourself up for problems that are becoming more and more common in America- obesity, heart disease, infertility, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, alcohol and drug abuse.
The best time to slow down and relax is when you don’t have time for it!
Stay tuned for some tips on decreasing your stress level.
Here’s a question I recently heard from an 8th grader…. How can you truly be happy with yourself as you are?
Wow, what an amazingly perceptive question. Isn’t that a question that people of any age are asking? If that 8th grader doesn’t find that answer now, he/she will still be wondering in high school and college and in his/her career or family life. Imagine the decisions we make that might be made differently if you were truly comfortable in your own skin, happy and at peace with yourself.
It seems at the root of that question is the belief that we need to be different in some way. Ask yourself, is that true? Can you really know that you would be better off if you were different in that way? How do you feel about yourself when you believe that you need to be different? It is fascinating to me that if you believe that, whether it’s true or not, your mind will find ways to prove it to you. If someone believes they need to be smarter, when they encounter any situation where they do not know an answer that’s the mind’s proof that yes, see, I need to be smarter. And the mind will totally disregard anytime someone tells that person, “good job” or “that was really smart.” It just doesn’t match with what the person believes about themselves so they say, “oh, they’re just saying that to flatter me, they don’t really mean it.” Have you ever thought that when someone complimented you?
Sit with this- I don’t need to be different. Does that feel as true? Make a list of all the reasons you should be exactly the person you are with all your strengths and weaknesses just as they were given to you. Your job is to be you and you are the only one that can do it!
“You are unrepeatable. There is a magic about you that is all your own…” D.M. Dillinger
Have you ever had the thought that your body should be different in some way? “I’m too fat, thin, short, or tall.” Or perhaps, “I should be healthy.” Do you notice the difference in the thoughts, “My body should be different” and “I should be different?” Is your body “you” in your entirety or is there more to “you” than that?
Your life would be better if you looked differently- can you really know that is true?
People would like you more if you were more attractive- can you really know that is true?
You would have a partner if you were more attractive- can you really know that is true?
You would be happy if your body was different- can you really know that is true?
These are simply questions but I am finding (through the work of Byron Katie) that my answer is I am not merely my body and my body should not be different. That doesn’t mean it will never change. Our bodies have been given to us to live this life in. And in my experience, it seems to be doing that job perfectly- I’m alive! You can go about your life believing “my body should look different” and if it doesn’t look different, it’s frustrating when you look in the mirror. Or, you can go about the same life believing “my body should not look different” and loving what you see in the mirror!