We all know that stress is bad for us. Not only is the experience of feeling stressed unpleasant, chronic stress can have serious health consequences as well. There is a clear link between the stress the mind experiences and the way the body breaks down. Unless the stress is relieved, we often get genuinely sick, the kind of sick that lab tests reveal.
Each facet of how we live our lives affects the health of our mind and body. Our bodies are mirrors of our interpersonal, spiritual, professional, sexual, creative, financial, environmental, mental and emotional health. The body doesn’t fuel our lives. The body is a reflection of the sum of our life experiences. I’ve worked with people who were given a clean bill of health, but didn’t feel well. They felt tired, or anxious, or depressed. They had insomnia, decreased libido, or felt various physical aches, back or neck pains, digestive problems, headaches, tightness in the chest or throat, or dizziness.
Often these people are prescribed anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds. These may alleviate some symptoms, but often when we are technically well, but feel sick, we are suffering from the consequences of chronic stress responses. Sometimes, we need to clean house. Without our environment, both physical and mental, being harmonious, stress will always squeeze us. We will feel out of balance. So taking a hard look at what areas of your life are feeling unhealthy or wrong, or not in synch with your values is a good first step. We can’t hide from the truth for very long!
Sometimes we need to adjust our mindset. That means maybe we have mental habits that create a mindset of stress: perceiving neutral situations as negative, or threatening. According to neuroscience, before events happen, the brain has already made a prediction about what is most likely to happen and sets in motion the perception, behaviors, emotions, physiological responses and interpersonal ways of relating that best fit with what is predicted. Wow!
Here is a little exercise from the book “Search Inside Yourself” by Chade-Meng Tan, called “thin slices of joy”, which I really like:
“Right now, I’m a little thirsty, so I will drink a bit of water. And when I do that, I experience a thin slice of joy both in space and time…Usually these events are unremarkable: a bite of food, the sensation of stepping into an air-conditioned room on a hot day, the moment of connection with an old friend…These moments add up, and the more you notice joy, the more you will experience joy. Thin slices of joy occur in life everywhere…once you start noticing it, something happens, you find it’s always there. Joy becomes something you can count on. That’s because you’re familiarizing your mind with joy.”