We know that stress over the long term isn't good for us, but what can we do to shift towards a greater sense of calm? Read on to find out why your thoughts are a powerful tool and to learn two simple steps to creating calm
This article is a guest feature from Dr. Leslie Shew, Life Strategies Coach, Holistic Wellness Coach, and nutritional consultant
Dr. Leslie blended her degrees in Education and Professional Counselling with her love of natural health care to enlighten others about the benefits of a holistic lifestyle. Her vast, comprehensive expertise in education, nutrition, and coaching provides a unique approach to guiding others toward total body wellness.
Dr. Leslie's desire to help bring awareness of the effects of stress come from her own personal journey to wellness. Her personal and professional experiences create a safe and caring environment for change.
Find Leslie on Instagram @DrLeslieWellness
Each new year many of us create new resolutions or set goals around health and wealth. We plan vacations, eat healthier, and join a gym. It is a time of new possibilities with excitement, adventure and abundance. As 2020 began to unfold, we were faced with something none of us ever dreamed possible – a worldwide pandemic. We now find ourselves in a new world. A world full of fear, sickness, loss, restrictions and daily uncertainty. We are under more stress than ever before.
While stress may not be anything new, the daily level of stress we are experiencing overall is at a new level. Because of this, many of us may be finding it difficult to feel relief. This type of long-term daily attack to our nervous system can create what is often referred to as a sympathetic freeze. Our brains get stuck in this sympathetic response because there is no end in sight for our stress. This signals our adrenal glands to release a constant stream of stress hormones that were never designed to be present in our bodies for long periods of time. Symptoms of this adrenal stress are fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, depression, weight gain, heart palpitations, irritability, brain fog and being easily overwhelmed.
How constant stress impacts our health
The adrenal glands are responsible for our “fight or flight” response and were designed to help protect us in times of danger or short-term immediate stress. They produce adrenaline to increase our heart rate, help us focus more clearly, and give us an extra rush of energy to get through a stressful situation safely.
In response to this adrenaline rush, the adrenal glands release cortisol to help return the heart rate back to normal and bring our body back to a place of rest so that our adrenals can recover for the next episode. When this continues to happen on a daily basis for a long period of time, it creates undesirable symptoms and begins to weaken our immune system (something none of us want during a pandemic).
One of the reasons this becomes so difficult to control is because it’s triggered by what we think, what we speak, what we see, and what we hear.
What we focus on grows.
What we consume plays a role in how our brain responds to stressors, whether we are watching the news, listening to horrifying stories of illness, or reading social media posts about the losses of friends and family.
Our subconscious mind begins to believe all of the negative things we are focused on, even if we aren’t personally experiencing them. It doesn’t know the difference between something real or imagined.
We can create a stress response just by thought alone, not to mention the reality many of us are actually living.
What we focus on
+ our experiences during the pandemic
(e.g. loss of jobs and time spent with family and friends)
→ a sympathetic storm taking place in our bodies.
~ Dr. Leslie Shew
Simply reading this article may be adding to your stress, so let’s talk about what we can do to help us shift from our current reality to what we want to experience.
Shifting from stressed to calm with two simple steps
Step 1: Edit what you consume.
The first thing required to break free from our fight or flight response is to get ourselves out of immediate perceived danger by turning off the news, reducing our social media and setting healthy boundaries. Fear creates more fear. Instead of looking at the latest world wide pandemic numbers, put on your favorite comedy tv show or movie. Laughter raises our vibration and releases endorphins in our brain to help us feel happier and boost our immune systems. If you must be on social media, scroll past any posts about our current situation and only read those that lift you up and bring you joy. When talking with friends or family, simply ask that the conversation only be around positivity and gratitude.
Step 2: Create your wellness wake up.
Take time to start each day with a few minutes of mindfulness and meditation. Meditation clears the mind, which raises our vibration. By visualizing and focusing on what we want instead of what we don’t want, we decrease our stress response and shift our subconscious mind. Adding in daily gratitude speeds up this process even more. These are simple (not always easy) things we can do to help reduce stress and shift our bodies into a healthier and more balanced state.
This new normal doesn’t have to be our forever normal. There have been pandemics before our time and they passed as this too shall pass. In the meantime, look for things this can teach us about ourselves, our bodies, our minds and our world.
This article is an extension of a chapter
in one of our Radiant Reads anthologies.
You can read more about Leslie's advice on stress in
her chapter titled “Tired of Being Tired?”
in the Radiant You anthology.