Health One Family Medicine

What’s stress got to do with it? [part 2]

In Part 1, we explored the relationship of stress with many different parts of our lives. In the end, we concluded: Don’t ignore it, confront it!

Luckily, confronting stress is a much more peaceful and reflective process than implied. The first step, again is to RECOGNIZE that it impacts me on a regular basis even if it is subconscious. Awareness opens the door to coping.                 

The second step is to SIMPLIFY. Simplify is a broad term that has to be specialized to each individual’s situation. For example, many times we convince ourselves that multiple things have to be accomplished before the end of the day. But stress arises when time constraints make it humanly impossible to achieve them all. To simplify in this situation might mean to make a list (before the stress climaxes) of the tasks that actually have to be done that day. Eliminating cleaning the bathroom and dropping off the dry cleaning that day might just make the difference between a rushed end to the day and one that allows you to appreciate the people and privileges that enrich your life.                 

While Step 2 requires customization, Step 3 is pretty direct: REFLECT. Take the time to process the deluge of highs, lows, praises, criticisms, anxieties, consolations, etc. that our emotional cortex is facing from a minute to minute basis throughout the day. “I need to make that red light to make it to work on time.” “Why did my coworker look at me that way?” “Why can’t she pick up her own stuff?” These are just a small sampling of the millions of thoughts and frustrations that race across the surface of our minds. We are forced to ignore them or brush them aside to keep pace with life, but at some point of the day, we must reflect upon our experiences and emotions in order to digest them rather than be consumed by them. It’s when this step is ignored that we wake up one day and wonder “Where did my life go?” Some forms of reflection include meditation, prayer, and guided relaxation. Journaling, however, is a very easy place to start. Take 5 minutes before bedtime to just put pen to paper. Don’t anticipate what you will write about and prepare to be blown away by how much your mind was holding on to when that pen hits the paper. The thoughts and emotions will flow automatically – they were only waiting for a medium of expression.                 

Performing these steps is guaranteed to lead to positive results in daily life, albeit, after doing them consistently and habitually. The bank might offer a drive thru and Chipotle a burrito to-go, but unfortunately, there is no way to bypass effort to better mental and physical health. Godspeed to you on your quest for better living!