Nipping Stress In the Bud: The Principles of Stress Relief
Stress is normal. Stress is OK. Stress is the same for everyone. If you're not stressed, you're not working hard enough.
How many times have you heard these, and other such remarks in the course of your working week? Of course, as with all such platitudes, they are close to the truth, close, but no cigar!
First of all, although a certain amount of stress is to be expected from time to time, it is NOT normal to be routinely stressed out, and this will invariably impact both you and your work. Stress is a coping mechanism, and this phrase alone should make you concerned - "coping" is something you do to get by when you would otherwise crack up, keel over or otherwise suffer some fundamental systems failure - it is best avoided and leaves you drained, exhausted and dangerously close to a whole raft of slippery slopes that should best be kept at a safe distance.
Of course, one man's stress is another man's "buzz". Or is it? Well, not exactly. Whilst the conditions that give one person a "buzz" may drive another to the brink of insanity, the stress itself remains the same.
Relieving stress, then, becomes a simple collection of principles that simultaneously remove the cause of the problem, give the body what it needs to cope properly with the effects and ensures a proper maintenance routine to discover what the damage is, how best to fix it and, ultimately, how successful the repair was.
Removing the cause.
If you hold your hand up in the air for a prolonged period of time, something predictable will happen. Sooner or later, depending on your age, fitness, flexibility etc, your arm will get sore, probably your shoulder will ache and quite likely you will begin to lose some feeling in the extremities of your hand. At this point (or before if you are in any way sensible) you may want to do something about the situation. There are potentially many solutions, but the primary ones are to remove the cause of the problem (i.e. drop you arm to a more natural position) which will (in most cases) result in a complete resolution of the "effects" in a relatively short period of time or to in some way "treat the symptoms".
This may mean giving the arm support, wither by someone else holding it up, adding some supportive mechanism (like a brace) to take some of the strain, taking painkillers etc to "numb" the effects or any other such measure designed to provide temporary relief (the problem will return sooner or later with any such approach).
Clearly, it is preferable and long-term, much more effective to remove the cause, allowing the effect to resolve of itself until the next time you decide to do something equally self-destructive. Relief from "treatments" is temporary, restrictive (you still, as a result have your hand in the air!) and may well have its own negative effects, e.g. constriction of blood or drug side-effects.
With regard to stress, there is always a cause (or a number of causes). Identifying and removing those causes may be time-consuming, difficult and disruptive, but it is infinitely preferable to the alternatives in exactly the same way. Einstein said that "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction". Remove the action and, by definition, the reaction ceases to cause or reason to exist.
The law of supply and demand.
We all know that we are using up energy all the time. Even whilst you are sleeping, your brain is using large amounts of energy to file away the day's activities and recharge for the next day. Your digestive system is turning whatever local delicacy you had for dinner into the constituent components required for rebuilding. Your heart is selflessly continuing to pump all those nice nutrients to every extremity and your lungs, kidneys and liver are quietly mopping up all the gunk of the day and preparing it for removal to another home, namely anywhere your body can comfortably (and legally, in this day and age) deposit it!
Without constant supplies of various nutrients, these processes would falter, adjust, decay and, in extreme cases, stop. When they stop, you don't have to worry about them any more, because you are no longer here to do so - at least not in our bodily, conscious way of thinking, at least ?. These nutrients include over 60 minerals, 20 vitamins (depending on who you ask), 22 amino-acids, and countless enzymes, fats, sugars and other such tasty morcels. Whatever nutrients are not included in the diet (and these days, that's most of the important ones) the body has to try to make for itself (e.g. Vitamin D, which is made in the skin in response to sunlight, and cholesterol, which is made in the liver) or to scavenge it from somewhere else (e.g. from various stores, less active cells etc).
Some nutrients cannot be made in the body and MUST be in the diet for health to prosper. These are known as essential nutrients, as their inclusion in the diet is essential to health. An example of this is the Omega-3 fatty acids, other wise known as essential fatty acids (EFAs). These little beauties are (amongst other things) the building blocks of the nervous system and are required for the multiplication, growth AND maintenance of ALL brain and nerve cells. As an example of our cultural limitations, approximately 25% of Americans are so deficient in this "brain food" that it cannot be measured in their systems!
Relating this to stress is simple. Stress causes pressure, damage and increased energy requirements (amongst other things). Consequently, in a stressed environment (i.e. person) INCREASED amounts of nutrients are required to repair the increased amount of damage that is taking place, and the specific nutrients required in any one case will be dependent on which systems are under which type of stress (stands to reason, doesn't it?). For example, if your nervous system is under stress, e.g. Multiple Sclerosis and other neuro-degenerative diseases, you may want to consider providing more of specific nervous system nutrients, whereas if your bones are bearing the brunt of the damage, mineral requirements may be increased. Of course, in most cases, the problem will be multi-factorial and many different systems will require help.
That help can come in one of two ways (or, preferably, both). Either you increase the supply of appropriate nutrients by adding to or altering the availability of nutrients in the body or you reduce the demand for those nutrients by removing the cause(s) of the damage in the first place. Clearly, if you can perform both of these functions at once, it is probable that recovery will take place considerably faster than either one alone.Once the damage has been repaired, supply and demand balanced and stores replaced, health will return in abundance as body systems enjoy going back to what they do best!
Patch or repair?
All body cells are replaced regularly. Some, i.e. blood cells only last a few weeks before a new battalion are marched out to provide reinforcements. Others, such as bone cells are the sloths of the regeneration process and are replaced roughly every seven years, but they ARE replaced - continually. As a rule, your body will know best what it needs and when, but, if you are like most of us, it is not very communicative (in general, and except in extreme circumstances when it's often almost too late) and doesn't provide a daily update by fax, email or even snail-mail, pay-on-delivery!
As a consequence, it is usually best to give the body everything it is likely to need on the average day, every day unless you know specifically that something is awry. In addition, a tune-up from a qualified mechanic, i.e. healthcare professional, who can recognise pending servicing requirements and even major overhauls, will help to direct specific support where it is needed.
Unlike our supposed health-care systems, which may be more-aptly called sickness systems, natural medicine (as encompassed by the various disciplines of complimentary and alternative approaches) seeks to achieve the maximum balance and wellness with the minimum of tinkering with the machinery. It is interesting to note that in many ancient societies, "medicine men" (for want of a better word) were valued and rewarded for keeping the tribe healthy. When people got sick, the medicine man would often be punished or remain unpaid until everyone was made well again. Compare that with our "one-drug-fits-all" modern medicine approach which charges exorbitant fees for keeping us permanently sick and we may begin to see the error of our ways.
Regardless of which route you choose, regular medical care is essential both to identify potential problems and to treat those that have arisen, ideally with methods that support the body to resolve the problem of itself.
If you run your car continually without fuel, lubrication or servicing, pretty soon something is going to break. If your body is under continual stress, without proper nourishment, relaxation, exercise and care it will also break. Is it just me, or does the answer seem obvious to you too? If your car doesn't start, you check the gas, the battery, make sure the oil is OK and maybe you'd drop it into the garage, so why do we treat the body so differently? Isn't it logical that if your machinery isn't quite up to scratch that you should check your fuel, top up your energy levels, recharge your batteries and get a systems check to see what damage you might have done?
For a simple way to resolve stress permanently, see the Five Steps to Stress Relief.
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