Now, more than ever, we need to focus on our health. This experience has challenged us in countless ways. We have had to alter the way we work and yet, stay productive. Togetherness under one roof has brought us closer but at times can be “too much” of a good thing. On the other hand, those living alone have had to stave off feelings of isolation. We have been fearful for the health of loved ones and ourselves. It is not surprising that we are feeling stressed.
Science tells us that the stressor itself is not the issue as much as our reaction to it. Research has proven that our thoughts and emotions are linked and that they can set off an internal reaction when triggered, causing a ‘fight or flight’ reaction. This is a healthy response if we are in danger and need to react quickly. However, when this response happens repeatedly it creates wear and tear on our bodies.
Physically, we can see the results of this reaction on our skin and feel it in our muscles. Our digestion and sleep are disturbed and eventually our immune system can become compromised.
Change through Awareness
Becoming aware of our mindset is vital to breaking free of harmful reaction patterns that we subject ourselves to over time.
When we catch ourselves dwelling on thoughts that cause us stress, we can take note of the emotions associated with these thoughts and how they make us feel. Awareness is the first step. Yet it isn’t easy to change our conditioned responses. Healthy distractions are a great way to help alter our body’s physical response. They are good for our health and can even bring our blood pressure back to a normal level. They lead to insight and inspiration. By turning our attention onto something that distracts us from these old embedded patterns of thought, we can develop new, healthful ways of responding to stress.
Physical activity can improve all aspects of our health. It helps to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, improves our mood and our quality of sleep. Exercise also releases endorphins, chemicals in our brain that revitalize our mind and body. By dedicating only 2.5 hours each week to a walk or run we can reduce pain and stiffness, build strength, improve bone density, think clearer and boost our immune system.
In meditation we focus on our breath and direct our attention away from our thoughts. For some, meditation is challenging as our thoughts wander onto worries or a recent argument which then triggers the opposite reaction in our body. This too can be useful if we take a moment to recognize the pattern of thoughts and associated emotions. Each time we catch ourselves, we can try to disengage and bring our focus back to our breath. If sitting to meditate is not for you, walking in nature and taking notice of your surroundings is also considered a form of meditation. The objective is to calm and center ourselves.
In trying times we can’t help but feel overwhelmed, yet we can challenge ourselves to acquire insight and new ways to respond to stress. Choosing to become aware of our reactions, being active, shifting our attention or distracting ourselves from a “negative spiral” are ways to start the process of change.
Massage therapy is one of the most powerful health awareness tools. It is a great method to connect our body and mind. Focus on your breath during your massage to enhance the connection. The best part is that it is as enjoyable as it is beneficial.