The more I seek my own self improvement, on all levels (mental, physical, and spiritual), the more I have come to realize the vital importance of stress relief as a part of my daily training. Ask just about anyone what they know concerning the effects of stress, and they will tell you that "stress can kill you," but it does a myriad of other degradation along the way. The path of stress is not a quick course to the grave; it is a long and agonizing way to put yourself under. It's also nearly unavoidable. However, you can always choose how you're going to deal with it so that you can reduce or negate its effects.
Stress can manifest as physical problems like chronic pain or fatigue, elevated blood pressure, and gained weight that won't go away. It can cause mental and emotional problems like anxiety, anger, and depression. The build up of stresses can block our spiritual path leading us to self-sabotage, self-doubt, and even abandonment of our goals and dreams. Stress has become so pervasive in our lives that we're willing to write it off as "the norm" and accept the problems that can arise rather that addressing the issue itself.
I often talk to clients who are suffering with physical or mental issues that are clearly stress induced, and when I ask them "What do you do for stress relief every day?" they'll respond with "I don't have time to deal with it every day." But what if just a little "work" on your stress relief reduced your pain and fatigue to the point where you could actually finish goals you've set for yourself? Is that not worth it? What if the little bit of conscious, purposeful stress relief is the missing element in your current plan of action that would allow you to reach your success?
Here's a great example, and I use this one because it turned out to be true for me. Let's say you want to lose some weight. You track your exercise, food, calories, water, vitamins, and hormone levels religiously, but nothing works. The harder you work at it the more you actually gain weight. You're being healthy, you're being active, you're being hydrated, and your doctor says there's no physical reason why you can't lose weight. What's wrong? Too much stress, not enough relief. No matter how healthy you work at being, your body feels the stress and holds on to every ounce of water and fat to keep you protected from the pervasive threat you're always feeling. This makes it feel like all your hard work is for nothing, so you give up.
Now, let's say you add little daily stress management to your exercise, healthy food, vitamins, and filtered lemon water. The change can be dramatic. When something you do is successful that, in and of itself, is a form of stress relief that can lead to even greater successes.
How can you find the right stress management to add to your programs? It's very individual, but the key is, it must be conscious and purposeful. You need to be aware within your process, so things like watching TV and playing internet games, while entertaining and not stressful, are not effective for stress relief. The most effective stress relief will allow you to remain in the moment with them. Some examples of things you can do that can help you stay in the moment: play with your dog or your child (and that means stop everything, be in that moment, and enjoy the play), sing, dance, write in a journal, do a senses walk, grow plants, meditate, do just 5 minutes of deep breathing, soak in the bath tub while doing your deep breathing. There are tons more, and what works for you is going to be totally individual to you and what fills you with joy and freedom. The key is to choose an active form of stress relief rather than a passive relaxation that shuts your brain off. Stay engaged in your stress relief process. Do at least one purposeful stress management activity every day. It could make all the difference in attaining those goals that seem just a little out of reach. It could also help you live longer. And if you're going to live longer, you might as well feel good and be happy while you're at it.