Stress, health, and joy. These three are interconnected. But how? Could it be that stress relief and joy lead to health? Or is it the other way around? Honestly, it doesn’t really matter which way you put it; one affects the other.
Stress accumulates in a number of ways; through interactions with other people, by overexerting body & mind, and through our food/lifestyle habits. These are some of the most common ways in which stress takes over our nervous and digestive systems. The accumulation of stress and fatigue can cause hormonal imbalances, disrupting our metabolism and ability to further cope with stress.
Stress will not magically disappear from our lives, and there’s no reason to want it to. After all, a healthy dose of stress is necessary to keep it all functioning. But when we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope, we must recognise this as a warning that it's time to bring back balance into our life.
We are all born with an innate intelligence to do what is best for us. It's that "gut instinct" that shows us the way; whether we choose to pay attention to it or not, we usually know what we need to do. Tune in with that intuitive response. Contemplate the potential of actually making the necessary changes towards a more balanced and joyful life.
A few simple things you can do to manage stress while encouraging health and joy:
- Establish a morning and evening routine that prioritizes self-care. Do a few things that you know are good for you.
- Practise stillness of mind. Take 5 minutes (or more) when you wake up and 5 minutes before bed. Take a few conscious breaths, paying attention to the breath every moment as it goes in through the nosrils, fills up your lungs, and as it exits the nostrils. Reflect on your intentions for the day. Remind yourself of all the positive qualities and resources within your reach. If negative thoughts come in, it's ok, there is no harm done, simply reflect on how they could be transformed. Don't get carried away with your thoughts. Part of this practise is to dettach ourselves from constant thinking so that we can have more room to follow through with our intentions with awareness of the present moment. Set a timer if you think it could help. Start with 5 minutes and work your way up slowly and patiently.
- Go for a relaxed walk: even if it's down the corridor. We so often rush from point A to B. Try making one of your daily walks a meditative one. Just walk a bit more slowly than usual. Pay attention to your breath and how your body moves. Allow yourself, in the middle of all the hustle and bustle, to just enjoy the simple things. It might seem ridiculous at first, but I promise you in time these will become an instant source of stress relief.
- Stay hydrated! We've said it before and it's worth repeating: drink more water. Dehydration puts even more stress on our organs and nervous systems. Help your body out by keeping it nourished.
- Learn how to properly practice inversions and their modifications. We're all familiar with the idea of putting our feet up after a long day. The reason it's so relaxing is because it helps the blood to circulate in a different direction. This helps to recirculate energy throughout the body and the body can more easily eliminate that which it no longer needs. In our Yoga practise we study and teach inverted postures like "saravangasana" (shoulder stand) and sirsasana (headstand) with the use of different props and modifications to make it more accessible - depending on your individual capacity and needs. These two postures have an amazing impact on the overall health of the body; they promote hormonal balance and stabilizing of the nervous system.
- Find out which all-natural herbal and plant supplements can best support your body's stability. We recommend chamomile flowers (available as tea or tincture) for calming and general stress relief - can even help to reduce pain from headaches or menstrual cramps. Ashwagandha is an ayurvedic herb that helps the body adapt to stress and promotes healthy functioning of the excretory and reproductive organs.
- Integrate more plant based foods into your eating and be open to trying different things. There are countless recipes available to help you get creative with this while still enjoying flavorful and wholesome meals. Plant based foods are supercharged with nutrients your body needs in order to cope with stress.
There is an essential component that weaves it all together: awareness. One way to practise awareness is through the understanding of our volition. Volition is the intention fueling our decisions and actions. All consequences are determined by the intention that sparked the thought that led to the action. Before you decide to go for this diet or that workout, this book or that course take some time to:
- Ask yourself: “Why?” Try to make the answer as clear as possible.
- Move towards action inspired by your intentions.
- Be willing to respond patiently and compassionately to the responses that develop.
- Identify the aspects of your life that need growth and transformation and consider whether your actions are leading you closer to your intentions.
- Revisit your intentions from time to time - they are not set in stone - if you feel the need to modify or restructure, go for it.
- Always remember; self-care is the key to wellness - for yourself and those affected by what happens to you.