Public Enemy Number One: Stress

Stress. It’s a killer. In fact, it’s the world’s #1 killer. And we all experience it at some point.

I came across this powerful graphic from the Heart Math Institute that says so much about the pervasive nature of stress:


Not a pretty picture, is it? To make matters worse, your body reacts to stress the same whether it’s a minor delay in traffic or being chased by a sabre-toothed tiger. Each stress event sets off a cascade of chemicals and over 1400 physiological responses in the body. If we let that build up, we can age prematurely, lose cognitive functioning, and do serious damage to our health.

You may not even notice just how stressed you are. Even though your body is pumping out all those cortisols and stress hormones, you may not be mentally aware of it because you’ve become so used to it. Being stressed is your new normal. Yet the effects are still there, chipping away at your health, until it shows up one day in some bad news from your doctor.

So what’s a stress puppy to do? Well, there’s good news! You can rewire your brain and change the way you respond to stress before it builds into something harmful. The best way to deal with stress is to address it in the moment. Don’t wait until the weekend, your next yoga class or massage, or your next vacation to relax. Take just a few minutes to breathe deeply. Close your eyes, turn within, and listen to what’s going on inside you. Bring awareness to what’s happening with your thoughts, your emotions, and your physical sensations. You don’t have to consciously change anything at this point, just bringing awareness into the present moment will usually slow your breathing and help keep you from disassociating from stressful events.

Pull over on the side of the road if you need to. Sit in your car for a few minutes. Go hide in the office bathroom for five minutes. Even lay your head down on your desk and close your eyes. It only takes a few minutes to derail that stress reaction and come back to peace. Do it as if your life depends on it, because it just may well.


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