There is no escaping the fact that stress can kill you. It’s not the stressful situations that can kill you; it’s how you handle those situations that is the culprit. The American Institute of Stress as well as the Mayo Clinic report the stress hormone cortisol gets released, wreaking havoc on immune and digestive systems. Chronic stress can trigger heart attacks or strokes.
While some people can simply move past the stress, others may become overwhelmed and unable to cope. However, in my industry I am finding that many of my clients have “normalized” their stress rather than dealing with it. The fight-or-flight mode can be helpful if you’re in a dangerous situation, but our bodies weren’t meant to live there. We are supposed to return to homeostasis.
In my profession I’ve noticed since 2020 that my clients are more just “living with it,” and it’s normal for them to be in a constant state of stress. I’m scratching my head, asking why? Recently our family suffered an unexpected loss, so it’s not that I can’t empathize. I’m not talking about tragedy. I’m speaking about going to bed at 1:30 a.m. because you’re watching a TV show knowing full well your alarm is going off at 5:30 a.m. to begin your workday. I’m talking about retired people overscheduling themselves for board meetings and volunteer work. I’m talking about working a job where you are being emotionally abused by your boss yet you aren’t looking to find another job.
We need to be intentional about combatting stress, now more so than ever. The American Psychological Association reports that “Americans have been profoundly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the external factors Americans have listed in previous years as significant sources of stress remain present and problematic. These compounding stressors are having real consequences on our minds and bodies.”
You are a spirit that has a soul that lives in a body, and stress will inhibit all three dimensions and make you sick if not kill you altogether.
One of the best ways to combat stress is to exercise. However, what I’m seeing in my gym is that people are showing up with little energy to bust into their stress. This leads me to ask my clients what else they are going to do to combat their stress.
Massage therapy is a great way to reduce stress. I am going for a “float” session this week. But those are temporary stress relievers. It’s important to recognize yourself as worthy of happiness. Sometimes making difficult decisions like cutting yourself down from eight committees to four, finding a job that is enjoyable or simply lowering the number of hours a week your work may be helpful. You need to take charge and make solid choices and changes. Maybe it’s as simple as being mindful and having spirituality in your life.
You are worth every bit of effort you put into yourself. You are worth living your best life to its fullest potential. We were created to live long, healthy lives – body, soul and spirit. Start today. It’s never too late. Set an alarm to go to bed and stick to it. Drink your daily requirement of water. Eat more veggies and fruit. Take a bubble bath. Give someone a hug or ask for one for yourself. Stay connected to positive people who will lift you up, not tear you down. I believe in you. As Lao Tzu wrote, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Michele Tenney is a Certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist & Wellness Coach. She is a member of the Orange Board of Health. She can be reached at 203-668-2969 or email at [email protected].