© Copyright 2022 Artwork by Cordi Neckermann
In our world of wonders, there are endless reasons for stress. Mostly psychological and social stressors. It almost makes you want to return to the times where the biggest stressors were running from a predator or not having enough food and having to hunter-gather. The stress monster can rear it’s ugly head in every corner of our lives; when dealing with difficult people in our jobs, being stuck in traffic, suffering from information overload on social media or even just from things that happen in our imagination. All these things can cause us to feel stressed and overwhelmed.
Our nervous system is designed to cope with sporadic visits from the stress monster, but not having him permanently hovering over us! Not having enough time to process everything that is going on around you or not taking care of your own needs can cause even more stress on top of everything else. Anxiety and fear can easily creep in because our survival instinct kicks in. Instinctively, we know we can’t keep ignoring ourselves and our needs, but yet we continually try to do so.
Consequences of stress
Our bodies react to stress with the fight or flight response, triggered by our nervous system. Our nervous system doesn’t ask what kind of stress we are dealing with, it just manifests the symptoms as if our life is in danger. Our muscles tense up, our blood pressure and heart rate increase dramatically, blood is pumped away from vital organs to the muscles of the arms and legs and digestion is inhibited. This primes us to run away from a threat. The problem nowadays is that with social and psychological stressors, there is no real threat to run away from. When we feel like we don’t have enough quality-me-time, it can feel like a threat to our own survival and our body reacts with these unwelcome stress symptoms.
It’s about quality not quantity
When we feel overwhelmed and stressed, the first thing we should do to take good care of ourselves is to RELAX. When we quieten down the stress monster, kick the stress him into touch and start to relax, our muscles soften, our blood pressure and heart rate decreases, our brain waves slow down and the tension slowly drifts away. So, the big elephant in the room which replaces our stress monster is the question of how to properly relax? Is it enough to just flop down on the couch to watch a Netflix series with a glass of wine? Can we just go to the gym to do a workout or take a yoga class? All these things may alleviate tension in the short term, but how do we properly relax?
When I worked my way back from 'mum burnout', these short term activities were not enough. In order to feel satisfied with my me-time, I had to be more specific about what I wanted and most of al, I had to be consistent. I needed to experience a deeper and longer-lasting form of relaxation for my body. I needed a Relaxation Response. Herbert Benson, a Professor at Harvard Medical School discovered the Relaxations Response. He found out in his studies that two factors have to be present to fully and deeply relax:
The mind has to be focused on something repetitive
An attempt has to be made to let go of all other thoughts, however this this attempt does not have to be successful; the main thing is trying to let go.
The easiest repetitive action to focus on that we always have available to us is breathing - we all do it and it is an unconscious action. Focusing on the breath with the intention to to let go of all thoughts (aka meditation), was the solution for me. I have to admit though, that not all meditation practices were right for me when I was recovering from burnout. Some techniques actually worsened my condition and created more of a feeling of anxiety, rather than helping me. I had to really discover and focus on the techniques and practices that specifically dealt with self-love and acceptance as these put me into a deeply relaxed state, rather than bringing me to a different level of consciousness.
The magic lies in being consistent
The benefits of meditation are definitely cumulative. The more often you meditate using a meditation practice that is right for you, the better the results. In my case, it took a good month of meditating every single day to feel more grounded and connected with myself.
When you are in a calm, relaxed state, it is much easier to tackle the 'big' issues, such as time management and clearing space for other things that only concerned ME. My personal meditation practice was 10 minutes each day, for 30 days and it provided me with the perfect foundation to reorganise the rest of my life. I was able to find a creative hobby that was purely to have fun, rather than anything else.
Lighting it up
In addition to my meditation and yoga practice, I added dancing and drawing to my hobby list and with every new hobby, I found myself feeling happier and happier. Knowing what lights me up from within is priceless and turns my me-time into quality-me-time, allowing me to kick the stress monster out the door. Everyone has a different happy place. If your happy place is dancing, drawing or yoga, then why not head over to CordiPower.com where I share all my hobbies and creative projects. I can’t wait for you to join in and unleash your inner creativity!
Life can be beautiful and amazing every single day. We shouldn’t get stuck in all the 'have to’s' and 'to do’s' as we can loose sight of how enjoyable life can be.
Life is too short to be lived in stress mode.
See you soon for some dancing, drawing or yoga,