We feel the pressures of the world around us, more than ever right now. If life did not present enough stress with day-to-day finances, jobs, family responsibilities and school – then it certainly does now when we layer in a pandemic, job insecurity for many and now the ever-stressful holiday season. It has tested even the most dedicated meditator’s skill at finding peace and calm in their day. Most of our patients at Bastyr and acquaintances in our personal worlds are having issues with worry, anxiety, depression and sleep.
There are many tools to implement in supporting yourself and those around you right now, and recently some of our very own did a presentation on this topic. Dr. Jean-Roberto Don and Naturopathic medicine student, Xavier Aponte presented on this topic, reminding us of many things that are in our power to bring down stress and worry.
Here are some tips from their presentation:
1. Breathe – We tell children to do it all the time when they are upset over a broken toy or the smaller half of the cookie, then we forget to do it as adults. Oxygenating your brain helps you think more clearly, take a step back and look at a problem from different angle.
2. Practice mindfulness and relax – easier said than done, but important in lowering the chemicals in our body that make it feel like we are running from a tiger. If you are not worried for your life, then you can make decisions and take calculated steps to resolve issues. This can be in the form of meditation, prayer, breath work or yin yoga – utilize apps like Headspace or Smilingminds to help you get started.
3. Stop catastrophizing and anxious thoughts – We’re human, we are prone to a bit of drama, we can’t help but feel sorry for ourselves at times. The goal though, is to have a good cry and then we have to move on. This is not to sound harsh or callous, but if we can learn to step back, evaluate where real risk exists versus the myths we may be telling ourselves then we can evaluate and take steps to change the story. This will take some practice, but well worth the effort.
4. Talk yourself into changing behavior – yep, you have to treat yourself like that small child, which many of us are inside – coax out the behavior we want to cultivate. Take tiny steps toward that change. One example that comes to mind is exercise – you know it will make you feel better, but still not doing it. Try rolling out of bed and doing five pushups – that’s it, a tiny step to change. When you do those five, jump up and down and congratulate yourself – You did it, you met your goal! This sounds silly, but our brains run on happy chemicals – and meeting a goal starts us down a different path. Soon you will be doing 10 pushups because you managed to get on the ground and start and you might as well do 10 sit-ups while you are here. Exercise is the example here, but you can break down every task to something as small as this – where it does not feel like work and is more accessible to your brain.
5. Take control of too much activity, make a plan and practice – Simplify wherever possible, do you really have to do laundry every day or have you created that as a task, do you really have to be on that PTA board right now? Are these things serving you, are they feeding you or draining you? It can be hard to say no, it can be hard to quit – but self-care is how you can care for others better if that is your desire. Can the laundry be done on one day while you cook? Can you divide out household tasks and ask everyone to do one thing off your list, weekly, so you can breathe easier? Are you taking on extra projects at work that no one is asking you to do, is that really advancing you? These are just questions; you know your life and what is of value to you and your circle. Take a moment, draw out your life, evaluate what needs to shift, make a plan and start practicing that change. It will be messy, you will have to re-design and re-calibrate, but you can do this whenever you need to while still managing the stress and allowing life to ebb and flow, knowing you are writing your story.
Call Bastyr Center for Natural Health (Seattle) at 206.834.4100 or Bastyr University Clinic (San Diego) at 858.246.9730 to schedule an appointment.
Presentation by: Dr. Jean-Roberto Don and naturopathic medicine student, Xavier Aponte.