Let me first make it clear that what I am going to speak about today is just my opinion that has been developed through my own personal experiences.
Between the ages of 12-14 I experienced anxiety attacks. They manifested in the form of terrible stomach pains that lasted hours and often had no trigger or explanation. It was a difficult one to diagnose as there was no physical issue with my digestion that doctors could pinpoint.
One day my GP recommended I see a local councillor. After just one session with a lovely woman my stomach pains began to subside and after a while I realised one day that I hadn’t had one for months.
It’s important to note that I had a typically normal childhood, nothing extreme, two loving parents, I wasn’t bullied more than any other kid is and I had a pretty good diet (considering what other kids my age where eating!)
But, I was under quite a bit of stress. Anxiety releases the main stress hormone, which is called cortisol. This hormone causes your stomach to produce excess levels of stomach acid which can be problematic when you eat or drink triggering foods, can cause distress to your stomach lining and change the hunger satiety levels.
Because the concentration of acid in the stomach changes the way you digest food it can be quite destabilising for your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. The cascade of effects add up, and it can effect your body in a fairly powerful way.
Why is this important to know?
Because without this experience I would never have got into the stress reducing habits I did start doing from a very young age. This is the purpose of this post, to help people realise that stress is not something that you can stop from entering your environment. In fact, stress levels need to increase in order of your body to adapt in training exercises, and they help you stimulate your focus in conditions that require a heightened state of alertness.
But, how can we prepare ourselves for dealing with the small stressors that don’t mean so much to us but seem to ‘tip us over the edge’ into rage, fear, anxiety and suffering?
Practice Meditation – this has been rebranded recently as ‘mind-full-ness’. In my opinion what we are actually trying to achieve is a reduced state of mind awareness, so I don’t exactly agree with the term. But, if it gets people sitting still and focusing their minds then I’ll let that one go!
This is a state where we simply slow our minds, remove the constant train of thought flowing without control in our mind and attempt to “rest” our brain. I started off with reciting Tibetan mantra’s, one specifically ‘Om-A-Rap-A-Sana-Di’ (spelt phonetically) for 108 beads on a bead-mala 3 or 4 times every morning. This practice evolved into full-on visualisations of imagery with my eye’s closed, breathing exercises and visual focus exercises.
If you want to find out more about these, I will be happy to talk about it with you so send me a direct message, but on this occasion I can’t delve too deep into it, that needs a whole other post!
All of them are a way of doing the same thing; getting your mind to focus on one thing and one thing only, when it drifts – because it will – you have to gently bring it back, don’t worry if you get sidetracked. Everybody does it. Just be a little more understanding of yourself.
Exercise the cardiovascular system – taking your time to exercise your body without it being overly challenging on your breath is a fantastic way to reduce stress. The physical exertion will far outweigh the emotional stress you’ve built up in your mind and the endorphin release will make you feel contentment and pride for taking the time to do something positive for your mind and body.
Try doing a really low-level run, swim or bike ride when you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’ll immediately feel better prepared for what the world has to throw at you.
Go natural cold water swimming – this has no be proven and backed up by science to boost the immune system and relieve symptoms of depression. Whilst anecdotally improving participants perspective of their problems and environmental stressors.
Many people will have heard about Wim Hof, an eccentric man from Holland who does incredible feats of human resistance to extreme cold. For the past 14 months I’ve been using his breathing exercises, cold water therapy immersion techniques and life advice to help me build up tolerance for stress in my everyday life. Like the first two (mentioned above), this practice has been a huge catalyst in improving my resistance to stress.
What I would like to recommend today is for you to comment below or message me directly if you’re interested about any of these practices and begin doing just one of them every day.
You can rotate the type, change the way you do them and adjust it to suit your lifestyle. But a plan and a simple piece of guidance (from me) might be exactly what you need to kickstart your stress busting healthy habits.
Speak soon, Patrick