Stress is hard on your body.
What I mean by stress is drawn from my Ph.D. dissertation about forty years ago! Yes, it was a long time ago, but the lessons I learned then are still valid. We found that stress consists of a conflict between what I see and hear and what I think ought to be. We all have an inner idea of how things should be. It helps us navigate through life.
For example, suppose you walked outside, got into your car, and started to work. But instead of roads where people obey the traffic laws, there was anarchy. How would you feel? Frightened? Angry? Hopeless? That is stress, where what should be is not what is.
(I suppose that is the appeal of all these zombie movies. We get to see people navigate through a society where all the rules have gone out the window. Like slowing to see an accident on the freeway, we can’t help but feel fascinated.)
These “should be” patterns are built into us from birth. A baby expects us to smile at him or her. If we don’t, it stresses the baby and that baby will not flourish. The baby expects to feel love, it is built into that child. A neglected baby will suffer from high level of chronic inflammation all through life. That baby becomes a person who ages quickly, gets worn down, is sick a lot, and wears out.
So it is with us. Things should be a certain way. When they aren’t, our body is stressed. The inflammation in our body rises. The C-reactive protein (C-rp), the stress hormones of cortisol and adrenaline, interleukin all rise. The body is on guard. There is danger and your body is ready to confront it.
That’s great if you are trying to escape a lion or a bear. The stress helps you survive. But today we can’t use the fight or flee strategies for stress. It is seldom that we can solve a modern problem by hitting or running. We have to use our brains.
(Stress also reduces Brain derived neurotropic factor, BDNF. Not good! BDNF helps our brain recover and stay fresh and healthy. You lose that, you lose your brain health. Hopefully you want to protect your brain!)
Let’s keep our brains and bodies healthy. I will give you some excellent ways of doing that. Some take a bit of time, like daily meditation. Some you can use quickly, like my “shift up” skill.
Try them all. Tell me what works for you.
The first video is a bit long. Stay with it. I think these ideas will be helpful.
People who have been chronically stressed set their recovery goal too low. If that is you, you’d benefit from intolerance. What I mean is that when you feel stressed, angry, fearful, or in despair, focus on recovery. Don’t wait for others to change, like your boss finally sees that he is a jerk. Rather, your job is to quickly bounce back. The reason is simple. When we are angry, fearful, anxious, or in despair, our frontal lobes tend to somewhat shut down. Since the frontal lobes are the high speed problem solving center in our brains, that is not good. We loose our common sense and our insight. Take a look:
Here is one quick method: Mindful breathing.