3 Easy Habits to Help You Overcome Stress and Improve Your Lifestyle
By Dr. Molly Casey
No one can escape stress. Stress is related to many health issues. In fact, some researchers say that up to 90 percent of illness and disease are stress-related.
Stress is anything you perceive to be overwhelming. That definition is broad and unique to the individual but the negative effects on health are real. If one is looking to live a healthier and happier life, stress-reducing activities should be a consistent part of one’s daily routine. Stress and the way it affects one person can look entirely different to the next. There are, however, certain activities that will help regardless of the cause.
Meditation encourages a heightened state of awareness or focused attention. Meditation has been shown to help decrease the effects of stress and support the body’s ability to handle and adapt to stress as it continues to occur.
The cool thing about meditation -- and what most don’t realize -- is that any technique or set of techniques encourages the necessary focused attention. People typically think of sitting in silence and breathing exercises as meditation. Yes, those can be forms of meditation, but so can cleaning or walking or having specific times set aside for whatever you do with “extreme presence” (such as daily tasks); as long as you bring hyper-focused attention to the task at hand, it qualifies as meditation.
Meditation helps the person be present in the moment and trains the mind in strength and endurance. When human beings run on autopilot throughout the day, it becomes a cycle in and of itself, and people become disconnected from the body and the effects of what’s occurring in their body. So goes the cycle. Interrupting or stopping the cycle by implementing times throughout the day when you set aside even five minutes of meditation may be enough to re-connect you to the body and adapt better to the stress you’re experiencing, perhaps see different options available that would better support your health, and create opportunities to consciously choose differently.
It is important to create downtime in your day. Western society is driven; it’s on the go all the time. It is common for days to start at or before 6 a.m., and end well after 10 p.m. Instead of trying to find three hours to do something fun during that span, create two or three times when you simply take 5- to 10-minute breaks of downtime. Get on the floor and play with your dog, go in the backyard and play catch with your kid (or the neighbor kid), intentionally greet and chat (uninterrupted) with your spouse when they come home, or simply sit in silence and take a deep breath to regroup.
The point is that the downtime can be whatever you want as long as it is intentional and involves connection, either by yourself or with a loved one. These moments of brief reprieve interrupt or stop the cycle of stress and offers the heart and mind a bit of connection to counterbalance the negative effects of stress.
Spending Time In Nature
While living in Western society we are in an atmosphere of convenience and modern life. It is easy to dismiss or overlook the power and need for time in nature. First and foremost, the earth literally sustains every aspect of our existence. We need the earth to exist. Logically it might be wise to spend some time with it, venturing outside in nature to connect with it purely because it is a requirement of life. The body requires Vitamin D and we get that from spending a moderate amount of time in the sun. Many people have very low Vitamin D levels, and though some of that comes from very poor gut health, another aspect that can’t be overlooked is that our society now spends far less time outdoors.
Nature has certain rhythms inherent to it such as the rising and setting of the sun, the seasons, and so on. The rhythms are different based on the area where you live. When you spend time regularly in nature calibrating with those natural rhythms, there is a stress-reducing and body-supporting element that naturally occurs. Spending time in nature two to three times weekly supports the body in optimal function and assists in decreasing the effects of stress.
Stress is a part of all of our lives. Stress negatively affects the health of the body and is related to most illnesses and diseases in one way or another. Creating lifestyle changes make way for a higher quality of life and function, and can also interrupt or stop the unconscious overriding cycle of stress that often runs many people’s lives.
Consistent practices of meditation, creating downtime, and spending time in nature are three practices that require no money and not a lot of time. Since money and time are the first two excuses most people use to justify not doing it, there’s really no excuse for not taking a few minutes to press the reset button.
You know you have stress. You know it negatively affects your health. Here are three practices that you can implement today to help combat the effects and promote health in your body.
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