Stress and Recovery
“Life is what we make of it.
Always has been, always will be.”
A few weeks ago, one of our board members, Lani Kyea, asked me to speak at the county luncheon for the Union County Extension Association of New Mexico on the topic of “stress”. Having only four days to prepare, I went to my file cabinet to pull out some material from past presentations I had given on the topic. For several years my work focused on stress management and wellness and particularly on the use of self-management tools that were free and accessible to anyone willing to employ them. Empowering people in regards to their own health and wellness was something that motivated me.
I believe the adage that says “We tend to teach the very things we need to learn ourselves.” For years, I have had to manage my own stress and the great challenges life placed before me. We may think we are alone but few of us go through life without suffering mistakes, losses, change, and upheaval. We are told such obstacles help us develop character, strength, and faith. That may be true, but it often is hard to see the silver lining in the midst of stress or crisis. Most of the time, we make our way as best we can. We can, at any moment, choose to be conscious of the part we play in any life situation. We are never alone and we are never without choices.
“When you can’t change the world,
you can learn to change your response to it.”
Dr. Robert Eliot, MD
The Mandala Center strives to be a place “out of the ordinary” that offers the space, time, solitude, and support that are needed for us to find our way and “make life what we make of it.” It is not an escape from life, but rather a retreat into the very heart of matters. Seeking retreat is a tool to help a person fully experience and feel the deeper callings within and to help evaluate the inner labyrinths to make wise decisions moving forward. This does not mean we have total control over life, or that we are unwilling to depend on the will of God. It means that we take responsibility for our own part in living our lives fully and make space within to let the will of God work within us.
Many people call The Mandala Center looking for an individual retreat and seeking a place to heal and recover. They are suffering from one or more stressors in their lives and need relief. They know instinctively that they must advocate on behalf of themselves and find “retreat” in their search for inner peace.
Below I have taken a few excerpts out of a manual I created years ago called Creative Wellness Healing Meditations. If stress has built up in your life, perhaps the information below can help you start thinking about ways to address it.
“The problem often is not too much stress…it is too little recovery time that causes our problems.” Dr. Nick Hall, neuroscientist and honorary MD
Stress and our body’s response to stress are a normal and healthy aspect of life. The process is often important to increase our motivation and performance, help us grow, and protect us when our well-being is threatened. However, problems arise when stress reaches high levels and remain there for extended periods of time OR when our stress responses remain engaged beyond the events that triggered them.
Our lives move at a very fast pace with changes, expectations, demands, and responsibilities. (A recent article I read indicated that the amount of information a person can now consume from reading one newspaper or watching TV for one day is more information than the average person, only a few hundred years ago, would have been exposed to in a whole lifetime!!) We push ourselves believing we should be able to do it all and have it all. We pay for it with headaches, muscle pain, heart attacks, fatigue, sleep disorders, and accidents.
The Journal of Stress Related Research indicates 60% of patients’ visits to the doctor are for stress related syndromes. The National Mental Health Association says that number is closer to 75-90%. Prolonged stress or distress often leads to disorders of anxiety and depression – as more than 25 million people experience.
We often feel at the mercy of our life-styles, external demands, and responsibilities. We can seek medical help or medication but before we let it get that far there are a few things you can do that are free and accessible to you right now – if you chose to do them.
1. Increase your awareness about what causes stress in YOUR life and note how you respond to it without judgment. Realistically assess what can be eliminated from your life. Do you take on more than you need to?
2. Be honest about your own beliefs and perceptions. A lot of stress is caused by negative thoughts and worrying about what MIGHT happen. Be in the present moment.
“Most of the stress in my life has been caused by
my own overactive imagination”
3. Accept that life has challenges and adversity. Make your expectations realistic. Do you set unrealistic goals for yourself?
4. Determine the difference between what you do not have control over and what you do. We can’t control life in every way but we can always control our responses to it. We do not have control over others. We do have control over our own choices, responses, and actions. This is the wisdom behind the very prominent verse adopted by many recovery programs today.
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
4. Learn and practice some kind of conscious relaxation, meditation, or prayer. These skills will serve you for a lifetime and make the quality of your life greater. It does not require hours of silent solitude. It only requires a few minutes a day and you may even learn to center yourself in the midst of any daily activity.
5. Increase your “Joy” quotient! Be creative!! Do what you love to do as often as possible. Put self-care at the top of your list. This does not mean we become overly self-indulgent. This is not a selfish attitude, but rather a necessary one. In order to fully engage in life and serve others from a balanced place, we must first find our own place of balance.
Here is a list of SOME of the benefits that you may experience when practicing Conscious and Purposeful Relaxation…
1. Reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels
2. Increases immune system efficiency
3. Reduces pain
4. Heals bone and tissue by allowing blood flow to redistribute and the body to relax
5. Improves memory and concentration
6. Increases creativity
7. Improves sleep and digestion
8. Increases feelings of love, compassion, and acceptance.
“Conscious movement of the breath to achieve a state of relaxed vitality enables us to reach and maintain optimum health. It is like breathing new life into oneself and reintegrating the mind and body.” Jeffrey Migdow MD