The Drip, Drip, Drip of Stress in 2008
Recently, I read an article saying that Americans are more stressed today than in 1980. Like that's a newsworthy article?
Give me a break — we're drowning in a constant ourpouring of stress hormones right now. Every evening, the broadcast news breathlessly reports that there is a new war in Darfour/the Congo/Zimbabwe/the Thai airport/Mombai/Kandihar/Baghdad, or a family five states away was murdered, and, oh, by the way, the stock market is still in free-fall, and the number of unemployed is rising — including maybe, just maybe, us too. Your Blackberry is demanding your attention, the television is reporting your neighbor's foreclosure, and your teenage daughter wants to marry a 38-year-old biker dude with more tattoos than you care to count, and your 12-year old has just announced that he/she wants to be goth.
The Creator gave us stress hormones to increase our chances of survival when the tiger was prowling right outside the cave: Fight or flight. Historically and evolutionarily, we spent the vast majority of our time quietly picking berries, catching fish, making babies, looking at the stars. Until the tiger appeared and then our stress hormones kicked in.
But today we are bombarded with constant and stressful and instantaneous announcements of pending doom (tigers outside the cave). Our stress response is not a once-a-year thing, it is a minute-by-minute thing. Our stress hormones are dripping constantly into our blood.
Constant stress is not healthy. We have to learn to chill.
Here is my recipe for refuge from stress:
Make and take 30 minutes for yourself every day. Just you, no one else. Turn off the cell phone, turn off the television, turn off the iPod, turn off the world. During this time, do something that is just for you in a manner that would appeal to your great-great grandparent. Take a quiet walk in the park, bake bread, meditate, chop wood (Grandpa's version of exercise), or practice abdominal breathing.
What? Grandpa did not do abdominal breathing? Well, maybe not, but he should have. Abdominal breathing resets your inner biological rhythms by calming the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
Here is the deal: Start by lying down and put your hands on your belly. For the next 10 minutes, you are going to raise those hands on your belly every time you inhale and lower them when you exhale. Concentrate on making each exhale and each inhale the same length. Concentrate on your breathing. Feel the air go in and go out.
Once you get the action, you can do this sitting up; but do start lying down. Now, do this twice a day for 10 minutes each time. Do this for 3 or 4 minutes before a stressful meeting. Do this to reset your biological stress level.
I don't quite understand why, but I can almost guarantee that abdominal breathing works.
What is your secret for lowering your stress levels? Write me and we can share ideas.
Thank you. Stay well.
Posted 2:54 PM