Everything is going to be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end!
Stress. It forms part of our daily life, it’s part of being human and, frankly, part of being alive. Physiologically, it is a natural reaction to both good and bad experiences that can be beneficial to our health and safety: our body responds by releasing hormones and increasing the heart and breathing rate, so that our brain can get more oxygen, giving us an edge in responding to a problem – be it mental or physical. In the short term, stress helps you cope with tough situations, makes you focus and pushes you along. However, traumatic and/or prolonged negative experiences can keep your body’s stress levels elevated far longer than is necessary for survival.
They say “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” True. Except for that health-wracking chronic kind of stress – first, it will bring you down to your knees and THEN it will kill you. Being highly stressed is like setting your body on fire from the inside, creating a hyped environment with every single cell and organ highly inflamed, in the attack mode. And that goes far and beyond just being in a foul mood!
In short, stress affects ALL the main systems in your body with trully devastating results:
Central Nervous System (–>irritability, anxiety, depression, headaches, insomnia, eating disorders)
Respiratory and Cardiovascular System (–>hypertension, stroke, heart attack)
Digestive System (–>heartburn, acid reflux, ulcers, diarrhea or constipation)
Muscular System (–>headaches, back, neck or shoulder pains)
Sexual and Reproductive System (–>irregular cycle, painful periods, erectile disfunction, impotence)
Immune System (–> increased susceptibility to viruses and diseases, increased recovery time).
Skin System (–> breakouts, dullness, wrinkles)
So now ask yourself: is it really worth it?
Here is the thing: we all stress about something at any given time (did I lock the door? I’m running late! Why did my dog have to pee on the couch when he’s got the whole friggin’ garden! I gained a kilo… I didn’t exercise today! I forgot to buy milk on the way home!) but our generation urgently needs to learn to identify and prioritise the real stress factors and distinguish them from mild inconveniences or momentary irritations. Instead, we should try to connect to our body and learn to centre ourselves at any given time through mindfulness.
Mindfulness is considered to be a universal human capacity which can foster clear thinking and openheartedness, and the goal of mindfulness is to maintain awareness moment by moment, disengaging oneself from strong attachment to beliefs, thoughts, or emotions, thereby developing a greater sense of emotional balance and well-being. Engaging in mindfulness prevents one from self-criticism, ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future.
This is the reason why mindful meditation is now enjoying a major come back and is even lobbied by Goldie Hawn through her foundation MindUP as a compulsory subject in primary schools across the US. Miss Hawn has identified that nowadays acute stress starts earlier and earlier (leading to bullying, depression, learning difficulties and even suicide) and she’s passionate about offering children the right tools – valuable social and emotional skills – to help them build personal resilience for a lifetime.
Okay, but what about the rest of us? Has the zen boat sailed away never to return, leaving us stranded and heading for a burnout? You can breath eeeeasy (literally!) According to Jon Kabat Zinn, Professor of Medicine Emeritus and creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic, the solution lies in removing the “I, me, mine” from the ongoing narrative and getting the big perspective on life around us, to recognise what REALLY matters! (And let’s face it: it’s almost never what we moan about…)
So relax, and don’t take yourself too seriously! Because nothing is under control…