To be honest , I am stumbling over where to begin. Stress is not only a HUGE topic, but it is a HUGE issue in our lives. The impact of stress in our lives is one of the single greatest impacting factors that we have influencing our wellness and well being.
So big is stress that it alone is one of the most contributing factors to all illness and disease. For every presenting person listing symptoms that are playing out in their lives helping to create dis-ease or some form of illness, stress is there.
I will share this statistic again as it has held as one of my favourites from a conference I went to years ago. That if we can consider that there are only 250 symptoms - in various forms - that we each present with, these symptoms diagnose over 2500 illnesses. So placing each symptom to an illness can be extremely difficult. But the take home impact from the statistic was that of those 250 symptoms stress presented in every one of the diseases.
Stress is at the root of many if not most of all our wellness issues.
That's a bold statement but its true. Of all the people I have seen and continue to see over many years talking about wellness or those seeking counselling in general, stress is always a huge factor that is revealed. It's so crafty it appears in many areas of life, not just one, and it can take hold with a vice like grip that locks out solutions.
The greatest issue of stress in our lives, is that it is transferrable. It doesn't simply stay in its own pocket of concern it washes over into so many areas of our life once the door has opened. Once allowed in, stress can become easily out of control.
It impacts us mentally, physically and emotionally.
And thats the beginning. Stress then looms in our mind with all forms of anxiety and depression, it feels into our body with headaches, body aches, stiffness, tightness in the chest, inability to get a deep breath or a dark cloud looming over us. It is chameleon in its disguise for it can seem like it is so many other illnesses yet, it is our lifestyle, our choices, our actions or inactions creating a stress that likes to disguise itself.
Unlike many other symptoms, stress traverses all aspects that can appear daily into our life. Possibly one of its most damaging characteristics is that it sits idle at the base of all of our issues and challenges.
Stress is an emotional response that works its way into both our physical and mental channels completely over powering any rational thoughts as to how to deal with the situation and compromises decisions.
Gut issues? I can guarantee you that stress lies lurking within your belly. It alone can do the greatest damage to the microbiota of your gut, to the lining of your gut, to our digestion and to our elimination. Stress is effective gut health's arch enemy.
So what can be done about stress?
Of all the treatments I have offered over the years there is one that stands out as the best option. And it just so happens that this one tool will help in many areas of our life.
We hear a lot of talk about it, perhaps you have read plenty on it, you may have even been tempted to take a class. Either way, mindfulness is a toolbox essential for overcoming stress in our life.
Lets be clear first about the difference of mindfulness and meditation.
Both mindfulness and meditation belong in your life, lets start with that. However the debate over the similarities and differences between them has been highly debated and probably will continue to be. My simple explanation is this.
Mindfulness is about placing focus and attention into the moment. That moment may be on an object, like a candle, or breath, but it can be simply about being present, recognising where you are and accepting what your life is now.
Meditation on the other hand, is losing the mind. Whilst during a meditation you can use creative visualisation as a method of mindfulness, you can use breathing as a method, but as you move into meditation, you enter a space of emptiness. A space of openness and consciousness that is not controlled or governed but simply allowing connection.
Now whilst I say use meditation, not everyone develops a strong connection to its silence and prefer to use mindfulness. Hence it being a great beginning for dealing with stress. If you are already doing breath work or using visualisation as tools, then these are methods of mindfulness, meditation is something different again.
What mindfulness offers
Mindfulness is something that we can implement at any time. We can find simply 5 minutes to focus and regain our clarity using mindfulness. It can alleviate stress quickly and it can regain our ability to think clearly and stay calm. Because one of the highlighting impacts of stress is a raised heart rate, an increase in fight or flight emotions and sometimes an increase in aggression, mindfulness can still this and return us to some form of calm.
Mindfulness is all about here and now. It tells us that this is the only moment we have and it is enough to control all others. That if we can gain some clarity we can regain composure and find ourselves wading through emotion back to responding with a calm and centred approach.
We cant deny where we are and we cannot avoid here and now, the use of mindfulness can hep us to face our situations and circumstances and free ourselves from feeling there are no solutions. Stress is either a present or future pressure telling us that right now or soon to come is going to be an ordeal that we may not be able to handle. Mindfulness says that we can stay present and use this moment to solve challenges and today to build tomorrow.
A quick technique
Focusing on breath is the most effective 'at hand tool' that you can use to work with mindfulness.
Simply closing our eyes, taking a good deep breath, allowing a long release begins the process.
Then simply following our breath with our mind. Without control focusing on our breathing and feeling our inhale and exhale. If we notice that the breath isn't slowing down we can use some breath work of simply breathing to a count (whats comfortable for you) of the same inhale as exhale, 4 counts in 4 counts out. This one simple act slows, calms and regains clarity. Once you can feel your breath slowing go back to simply watching breath and allowing it to flow.
A few quick tips
One of the greatest gifts in mindfulness is to use it as a time for gratitude. Focusing on all that you have, what you are grateful for allows the mind to switch focus to all that IS and not allowing the drama to unfold into self talk that is defeating. Gratitude is one of the most gracious mind talks we can use to bring about a change in our mindset immediately. Even in our desire for different, we can find room to be grateful for all that we have been, all that we are, and for what is to come.
Use it to find space in emotions. Stress impacts emotions and brings them to a raging out of control fire within us. This simple act impacts our gut hugely. Stress is one sure factor to destroying gut health that you can find. The greater the stress in your life, the more likely you are suffering gut issues, bowel issue, and pain and cramping through the intestines. Mostly the stress that impacts our gut is emotional. So taking the time to deal with emotions helps with our gut health immediately.
Get outside. Mindfulness and nature go hand in hand. The moment you feel stress impacting us - take a break. Step outside and find focus in nature. The trees, the flowers, the sounds, feel your toes in the grass or the sand, the more you connect to nature you are present!
There is no place for stress in wellness
Stress has no place in a life that is seeking wellness. Yet stress is a part of our everyday if we allow ourselves to open to it. Our fast paced high pressured lifestyles are stress' breeding ground for they allow us to feel out of control and under siege. If we are seeking wellness, then re-looking the level of stress in our lives is a priority. Eliminating that stress is perhaps the greatest gift we can give ourselves on the road to being free of dis-ease and illness. It is most certainly essential that we seek to release stress for us to benefit in good gut health.
Seek out help if you need it. A good counsellor should be in every ones health care list. Learning mindfulness is an essential tool and has multiple benefits that you will never regret that beginning.
Reach out if you would love further information or more steps to take.