Just take a moment right now and tune in to the level of tension in your body – are you gripping your muscles in places you’d never even noticed before? Stress in our modern lives has become a chronic and reliable presence in our lives. Did you know that our stress response – increased heart rate, a rush of blood to our muscles, less blood to the brain and digestive organs – is an automatic response to getting us out of physical danger. In a short, intense period, we run from the lion that is chasing us until we clamber up a tree to safety and then we rest, for long periods, until the next short and intense incident. Our bodies had time to recover, our digestion once again became top priority and life returned to normal pace.
In modern times, however, we have a continuous flow of stress hormones in our system – work stress, home stress, relationship stress, parenting stress – with little muscle movement (exercise) to diffuse the stress and no time to rest and repair.
Stress profoundly impacts the way we function physical, mentally and emotionally and frequently prevents us from functioning at our optimum. With less stress onboard the body is able to heal itself.
Practical ways to stress a little less
Taking stock of our lives may not be a practice we engage in often, but experiencing the benefits of doing just that can be a truly enlightening experience. The transition into the slower months of autumn and winter is the perfect time for reflecting on where we are at, and whether it is perhaps time to stress a little less.
Spend time in nature
Breathing beautiful, clean air draws us back to the simple things. Spend some time walking or sitting in the natural environment and listen to the birds and the stillness. Why not try the botanic gardens, somewhere in the country or a beautiful national park.
Write a journal
Start keeping a diary of your everyday thoughts and feelings. Bringing our attention to how we feel about areas of our life is a powerful way to reshape our lives for the better. It can also help to remind us how much we already enjoy about our lives.
Sounds tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. Meditation is really all about being completely present in our bodies. In a quiet place, close your eyes and focus on your heart – feel the rhythm as it beats. Now move through your body from head to toe (or whichever sequence you like) and really feel every part of your body. It’s a subtle and peaceful feeling.
Draw a mind map
Brainstorm all the key areas of your life and how they are working (or not) for you. Draw a circle in the centre of the page and label it “My Life”. Then branch out from the centre to other circles containing the major elements of your life (eg. work, family, health, relaxation/hobbies, etc.) and daydream about how you would ideally like these areas to be. It’s a great way to get focussed on what we really want out of life.
Embrace the stillness…