Many people become desensitized to chronic stress because they are so accustomed to it. If this is your pattern, consciously establish new behaviours. Prepare yourself for stress, so when it crops up, you have a new set of tools to use to work on it. “Every thought or emotion you experience has electrical energy and a chemical response attached to it. When you are optimistic you are sending healing chemicals all over your body.”
Ordering yourself to relax in reaction to stress may be ineffective, especially if you have become habituated to stress. But you can take advantage of your body’s natural defences against stress.
Endorphins are chemicals your body produces that block pain and give the immune system a boost. Exercise, laughter and even eating spicy food produce endorphins, as do acupuncture and massages. Water is renewing, so taking a bath reduces stress. Altruism neutralizes negative emotions that affect immune, endocrine and cardiovascular function. Altruism creates physiological responses or a ’helpers’ high’.
The words “breath” and “spirit” are the same in many languages. Your breath is quite literally your connection to life, both physically and spiritually. Deep breathing helps you relax and become more receptive, slowing the pace. Whenever you remember during the day, take a few deep breaths. Notice how this simple action calms you down.
The opposite of stress is serenity. Serenity neutralizes stress and is essential to healing. To nurture serenity, meditate. Scientific research confirms the good results of regular meditation, including stress reduction, lower instances of heart disease and cancer, and longevity. Meditating for 20 minutes a day has enormous benefits, but even five minutes will help you become comfortable with silence, as you sit at the calm eye of the storm that is your day-to-day life. “Peace, autonomy and health are the essence of happiness and the fruits of serenity. Serenity is experiencing peace and living mindfully in your life.”
Guided imagery and prayer work much like meditation to reduce stress and produce feelings of serenity. Keeping a journal where you write down your thoughts and feelings has positive healing benefits. A journal is a healthy outlet for anger, frustration, helplessness and trauma.
Science shows what religions have taught for years: gratitude creates happiness. Be grateful for your breath, as the source of life. Be grateful for your body, especially after all you’ve put it through! Be grateful for what’s come before you, which enables you to live your present life.