In this new chapter of my life, I keep discovering things I wish I’d learned thirty or forty years ago. If you’re on the far side of fifty, like me, you can probably relate. But since we can only move forward (or so they say), we must forge ahead without regret. Much of my recent self-directed education has been focused on learning how to live a healthy, happy life. Stress-reduction is key to reaching that goal.
Seven or so years ago (time flies, so maybe it was closer to ten??), I read Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons’s books, Potatoes, Not Prozac and The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery System. They changed my life. I discovered my sugar-sensitive self and was able to change my eating habits, break my addiction to sugar, and step out from under the heavy cloud of depression. I’ve become so much more aware of what and how I eat and of how that affects the way I feel. It took years to get where I am today and, of course, the journey continues.
Last weekend, I attended a workshop lead by the author of two other books that I’ve read more recently: Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself and The Placebo Effect. In these books, Dr. Joe Dispenza teaches that through meditation it’s possible to break the cycle of thinking and feeling (and feeling and thinking) the same way everyday in order to create a new, happier, healthier future. And now I’ve just started reading Dr. Christiane Northrup’s brand new book called Goddesses Never Age. In it she postulates that there’s a difference between growing older and getting old. She sites the work of Dr. Dispenza within the first few chapters of this latest book and of Dr. DesMaisons in at least one of her previous books.
All three of these authors are proponents of meditation as a means to balanced health. And all three discuss the devastating effects of stress hormones on the body. I’m sure we’re all aware on some level that being “stressed out” is not the best thing for us. But the more I learn about what the body goes through when those stress hormones are released, the more I understand the value of learning how to de-stress.
We can experience physical stress, like not getting enough sleep, or emotional stress, like losing a loved one, or chemical stress, like consuming a high-sugar diet. Adrenaline and/or cortisol rush to our aid to sustain us and strengthen us in our momentary need. But they’re only meant for short-term use. If we’re constantly stressed, then we’re not giving ourselves a break from these hormones. And that can wreak havoc in the long-term. It can literally wear out the body, organ by organ, system by system.
It’s important to take stock of the stress in one’s life and to assess it as a very real health threat. There are small, but effective ways to de-stress, like taking a walk, enjoying the scenery, playing with your dog, cuddling your kitten, or just taking a few deep breaths. New habits could be formed: learning how to meditate, eating healthier foods, unplugging from your electronic social connections once in a while, or investing time in a hobby, to name a few. For some, there may be a need to take even larger, more difficult steps to let go of stress, like getting counseling, changing jobs or marital status, quitting smoking, or moving away from a bad situation. The goal is to learn what it feels like to be truly non-stressed and to make that the norm for your life.
I know that de-stressing is often easier said than done, but ultimately it’s our health we’re talking about here. It’s the quality of our lives that’s at stake. And who doesn’t want to live a long, healthy life? So, I encourage everyone (myself included) to take the time to make the changes that will lead to stress reduction and improved health. Check out one of the books I’ve mentioned above or take a pottery class or put your iPhone on silent for an hour…or do whatever it takes! And enjoy your life!