We’ve all uttered the words “You are stressing me out!”, “This is so stressful!”, “I’m under so much stress at work”, “I’m feeling stressed out”, so I think we consider stress something that we are under or something that’s putting, well, stress on us.
The reality is, all incoming information is considered stress. If you are alive and doing something, learning, or working, you are managing that incoming information and your brain considers ALL incoming information as stress. Basically, living is stress. Demand on the body in any form: mental, physical, psychic, electrical, chemical, metaphysical… whatever level you want to go to, you will find stress. Anything that places a demand on the body to function could be considered stress. So your family, finances, work, home, social media, politics, the weather… it all causes stress to some extent.
The thing is, stress isn’t the enemy. If you are alive, stress is an integral part of living life to its fullest. In fact, a life with no stress would be stressful! You would be bored, depressed, and actually looking for things to cause stress. This is good news. This means you don’t need to return your children to the stork, quit your job, get a divorce, and move to some remote island (where a hurricane would most likely occur at some point anyway causing you stress). There’s no way to live in a state of NO STRESS until you die. And who knows if there’s stress in the afterlife…
In fact, you DON’T need to reduce stress. You need to learn to reduce its cumulative negative effects so it doesn’t end up hurting you.
Change your view on stress
If you look at stress as the enemy, you will cause yourself even more internal stress! You will start dwelling in your past with “I should have…” or worry about your future with “What if I…” and never get to fully enjoy or focus on today. Your body – every cell and molecule in your body lives for right now. If your mind could live the same way, you would help your body and mind balance out better. Stress only becomes unbearable when you feel you have no power to prevent it.
The time we spend trying to eliminate, banish, detox, or alter stress causes more stress. (I’m getting stressed writing the word stressed so many times in this blog!)
Change your understanding
A cool thing about the human body is that it’s designed to protect and heal itself. We are like one of those super-expensive, revolutionary new cars that comes equipped with its own built-in GPS system that has the capability of taking over if you are about to hit something to reduce the risk of an accident. We have what’s called autonomic functions, meaning many things that occur in us to keep us healthy, balanced, and efficient are “unnecessary of conscious control” or “caused by involuntary control.” Things like the digestion, transportation, absorption, and excretion of nutrients are all done without our conscious control. We are just responsible for making the food choices, putting food into our mouth, and well, going to the bathroom when the urge hits us. In fact, more than 90 percent of our body functions occur without us thinking about them.
In MELT, I call these parts of our body the Autopilot – scientifically it’s the neurofascial system, or the combination of the autonomic nervous system and the connective tissue system that keeps the body stable, balanced, and functioning efficiently without conscious control. The neurofascial system can be enhanced and supported by our voluntary assistance. And the good news is, it’s very adaptable, responsive, and accessible.
Change your state
What can you do from day to day to restore neurofascial regulation and improve Autopilot efficiency? Below are three actions I want you to consider.
- Learn to identify “Stuck Stress” The repetitive demands of life create connective tissue dehydration that left unaddressed builds up in the body, creating what I call stuck stress. The accumulated stress can be identified and eliminated without stopping the repetitive actions of our life, which would be nearly impossible. So instead of not sitting at your desk if it’s required for your job or not training for a sport thus decreasing your performance, first ASSESS your body for the stuck stress that daily life creates, then treat your body regularly to reduce the negative effects of stuck stress (this is where MELT comes into play), then REASSESS to empower yourself to take a few simple actions to help your Autopilot function more efficiently. Try this standing assessment so you can understand how to assess your Autopilot for stuck stress.
- Mindful eating and sipping water When we don’t manage stress accumulation, we create food cravings and grab food on the go, which leads to bad food choices and basically eating the wrong foods or too much food in general. Plan your meals! This is actually not hard to do. Try a two-week journal where you write down what you WANT to eat or what you are going to eat before you eat it! Prep food the night before. And remember, it’s not the volume of water you drink, it’s the consistency. Help your body get the most out of what you drink by sipping small amounts throughout the day.
- Instill good sleep habits Go to bed at the same time each night. Wind down 90 minutes before bedtime by dimming the lights, turning off the TV, taking a warm shower, brushing your teeth – basically make getting to bed a ritual. Keep your room at a cool temperature. Sleep in a PITCH BLACK room or use an eye mask. Use a white-noise machine, or create one constant sound wave with an air conditioner, air purifier, or humidifier.
Stress is a part of life, but you don’t have to let it take control! Consider taking action to boost your Autopilot and eliminate Stuck Stress.