I'm always seeking to free myself from the tight clench of Stress (even as I willingly climb into his hand time and time again). I decided to enroll in a two-hour class entitled "The Tao of Stress Management."
The presenter started the workshop by emphasizing the direct relationship between stress and nutrition. He argued that when we eat processed foods, we put unnecessary stress on our cells. He railed against refined sugar, flours, pasta, etc.
Then he moved into a segment about accepting personal responsibility for our stress levels. Ultimately, we are the ones responsible for our emotional state. We create stress for ourselves by being too hard on ourselves, wanting to control things we can, escalating stress, or blaming things on other people. Our reactions to external stimuli determine our stress levels (not the stimuli themselves). It made me feel so silly for all the times I let bad drivers frustrate me on the road. Seriously? Why escalate my stress level over something so stupid?
He talked about deep breathing as one antidote for stress. He discussed the important of breathing all the way into your stomach--really letting your belly expand with each inhale. This particular technique has already worked wonders on my stress levels. If I'm really, really stressed, I breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth to release all my pent up emotion. I'm trying to condition myself to breathe deeply as a habit.
He also touched on the importance of regular physical activity. Even though I have personally experienced the beneficial effects of exercise on my stress levels, it still helps to hear the message over and over again.
Because he is an acupuncturist, he also discussed the benefits of acupuncture. Even though I'm a little weirded out by acupuncture, I think I'm going to start using it to help regulate my menstrual cycles.
In terms of next steps, here's what I generated during the workshop:
- Find a natural, whole foods cookbook (maybe this one?)
- Set aside time to relax every night before bed
- Practice breathing all the way into my belly
- Stop complaining
- Do yoga (for crying out loud!)
- Start taking walks after dinner
- Take 25 deep breaths as I fall asleep