How do spirituality and stress counteract? I guess it isnít a surprise when stress relief makes the news- but usually in North America at least, the answer comes in the form of a pill. Itís no secret that Iím not crazy about taking pills.
One of my favorite authors on this topic is Richard Dennis, whose phenomenal book called Evil Medicine (contact me for a copy- it isn't available at Amazon) cracks the world of medicine wide open to expose the ugliness of medicine, pharmaceuticals and deterioration of the human body. The book is an eye opener.
Here's the tag line on the book's cover "The shocking proof that every prescription you take is sabotaging your immune system and ruining your health!"
Now, Iím not totally against allopathic medications- not completely- but what if there were natural ways to find stress relief, end anxiety, relaxation techniques to improve or even extend your life?
When I ended up in the hospital one weekend (at the ripe old age of 36!!) with chest pains (which turned out to be symptoms of stress, not a heart attack, thank goodness!), I had to re-think stress relief. There were some changes I was willing to implement, and some changes I was not willing to implement.
For example: I like junk food and I donít exercise very much. OK, I know, not the best. But worse than junk food? Worry. Negative thinking. Even more than "you are what you eat"? You are what you think.
The greatest need for stress relief comes from negative thinking. Anxiety wreaks havoc on the body. During a particularly stressful time, I used to wake up early, early in the morning with my heart pounding, panicking about some perceived major issue.
Here are my top 5 answers to stress relief:
1. Think happy thoughts. I know this sounds Pollyanna-ish, but so what? Anyone ever hear of Pollyanna having hypertension? STOP thinking about those things that are bothering you! Make yourself think about things you enjoy and you may find (in addition to feeling better in that moment) surprise solutions appearing to you!
2. Prayer. One of my all-time favorite prayers is "OK God. I'm out of ideas. You'd better take over and make it REALLY freakin' clear what I'm supposed to do next about this situation (put in your own details here)! NOW!" I like yelling this prayer, or something to the effect, at the top of my lungs in my car with the windows closed up tight. The trick with this prayer is letting God take over and remembering, if concern returns, that you passed off the baton and the change agent isn't you.
3. Meditation. If prayer is talking to God, meditation is listening. Meditation isn't necessarily a practice involving candles and incense and pictures of old men with beards. One sort of meditation/listening that I enjoy is expecting an answer to come. That expectation gives me relief, and often answers do come (and I can identify them, because I'm expecting them!)
4. Do something different. If what you are doing is causing you problems, do something else. Examples: playing video games getting in the way of relationships? Drinking causing problems? Spending money you don't have? Sometimes identifying a problem is a good first step. Go do something else. If you find that you cannot do something else, you may be facing an addiction, in which case the something different could include counseling or a 12-step program. Years ago a friend gave me sage advice that I still use today: "don't do what hurts." It's the simple things, eh?
5. All out of options? Still stressing? Having negative thoughts? Can't shake the blues? Bad things still happening? Here's number 5: go do something for someone else. Believe it or not there are people in dire straights, even worse than you. Maybe, just maybe, they could use your help. Wild thought. Help feed someone. Visit someone who is lonely. Donate some money to an organization that you believe in (or donate some time).
These five tricks have helped me change my mental tune and have provided tremendous stress relief for me every day for nearly 20 years. Have at 'em- my gift to you!