Managing-stress, key to a healthy life

The maintenance of good health requires managing-stress. All of us have stress in our lives from job stress, pressure to meet deadlines, stress from physical danger, financial stress and so on. Managing-stress is a lot more about changing the way we react to stress than to eliminating it. You wouldn’t want to eliminate all the stressors in your life even if you could.

Before you can begin stress management and change the way you react to stress, you need to be able to identify what produces stress in your life. Generally, stress starts with some form of conflict, the greater the conflict the greater the stress. Stress can be minimized by identifying and changing how you look at that conflict. Our own reactions cause the stress and managing-stress starts with the control of our reactions.

Most of us allow ourselves to be drawn into conflict over trivial issues. When I was younger, I allowed myself to react angrily if someone cut me off in traffic. Now I say a little prayer for their safety and let them go. On more serious stressors that are beyond my control, I give those to the Lord. He promised to “keep us in perfect peace, if we trust in Him” (Isaiah 26:3)

Managing-stress is a necessary effort because stress can have dramatic impact on our health. Stress can not only make you sick and feel miserable, it can kill you.

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When we are faced with physical danger or other types of stress our bodies react. Our body’s adrenal glands start producing adrenaline. Other hormone producing glands such as the thyroid, pancreas, and pituitary also respond. In our society we don’t have the option to fight or run away, so we internalize it. Managing stress is necessary to a healthy retirement

The adrenal glands excrete cortisol. Excess Cortisol can lead to ulcers and colon problems, including Crohn’s disease and irritable bowel syndrome. Cortisol can shrink your brain's memory center. These are all serious health issues.

The thyroid gland starts to make its hormones which speed up your metabolism and can contribute to nervousness and insomnia. A rise in blood sugar is caused by the cortisol which triggers the pancreas to over produce insulin. This can result in weight gain and the long term result could be diabetes.

Stress is one of the causes of high blood pressure, which is a root cause of heart attack, stroke, dementia and even kidney failure. Stress can both shorten your life and rob you of quality of life.

Daily meditation has been effective for me. Studies have shown that meditation can among other things reduce stress, lower blood pressure, lower heart rate and improve sleep.

Managing-Stress with Meditation (the following is one method.)

  • Choose a place. Meditate anytime and anywhere that works for you. You may have a favorite meditation space in your home, with or without your favorite background music. I prefer quiet but some people find that music mellows the mind to help them center. “Centering” is tapping into the calm center of your mind, freeing you to focus on peaceful thoughts while blocking out disturbing ones.
  • Choose a mantra. A mantra is a word or phrase that prevents your mind from getting sidetracked with negative thoughts. It’s a device to help quiet competing self-talk. There are a lot of words or phrases that will work. I like; “the Lord is my Shepherd” or “thank God” or “feel good.” Anytime your mind wanders from your mantra, bring it back into focus. Don’t be concerned with how well you are doing.
  • Breathe with your mantra. Taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly while thinking your mantra helps you relax.
  • Choose a Posture. Sitting on a chair works but I like to sit on the floor with my legs folded back and my hands on my knees. Relaxing most of the muscles in your body reduces tension messages going to the brain. Meditation is a state of mind.
  • Close your eyes. Your goal is to get in touch with what’s inside your mind, not what’s outside.

Dr. Robert Willix, jr. in chapter seven of his book, “Age Proofing” talks about managing-stress. He is also a proponent of regular meditation as a way to mitigate the effects of stress. Managing-stress doesn’t focus on changing the situation. It focuses on how to turn a negative, destructive reaction into one that is positive. This book is a great read which I am happy to recommend to you.

The following are some techniques in managing-stress.

  • You have to take charge of your life. No one else can do it for you.
  • Attitude – a positive attitude and life outlook is a very effective way to mitigate the effects of stress. Positive affirmations repeated to yourself can be very effective. One I like came from Norman Vincent Peale. It is “I believe that I am always divinely guided, that I will always take the right turn in the road and that God will make a way where there is no way.” Give the problem to God and trust him for a resolution.
  • Overcome anxiety because out of control anxiety can be a major causal factor for stress and depression.
  • Time management – establish priorities and budget your time. When you make commitments be considerate of your own time. Your schedule should allow time for recreation and relaxation.
  • Regular (preferably daily) aerobic exercise to lower elevated hormonal levels. These stress triggered increases in hormonal levels can be destructive. Walking on a regular basis is especially good for your heart and your brain.
  • Cut down on caffeine. Caffeine raises stress hormone levels.
  • Stay lean. Fat cells produce excess cortisol, which causes stress and excess stress produces even more cortisol that leads to an unhealthy cycle.
  • Regular relaxation therapy such as transcendental meditation for 10 to 20 minutes each day.
  • Obey Christ’s commandment to love one another. It is difficult staying angry and in conflict with someone, if we love them as Christ loves us.
  • Spend some time each day with the Lord in prayer and Bible study. Some time ago, I received a small book of daily devotions by David Jeremiah, "Life-Changing Moments with God." I begin each day with reading God's word in that little book and my Bible. If you start and end each day with God, no matter what happens in between, you will be at peace.

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References and suggested reading:

  • Human brain-Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  • Russell L Blaylock, M.D., Health and Nutrition Secrets that can save your life, Health Press.
  • William Sears, M.D., Prime Time Health, Little, Brown & Company.
  • Retirement resources.

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Disclaimer and goal

In the end it's not the years in your life that count but the life in your years. Abraham  Lincoln