If you have ever interacted with another human being, it is very likely that you have experienced feelings of disappointment. These feelings are a killer for many people and I strongly believe, with the support of a lot of epidemiological research, that grief or stress is likely one of the strongest contributing factors to chronic disease. Fear not though … as this is not a story all about grief and misery but one of hope and encouragement, in the end providing details about how to take control of your stress!
A short bit of personal misery to start ….
Recently, I have experienced a series of events that could have resulted in major life stress for some, but have been little more than an annoyance for me as I believe I have found several secrets to stress management that I have learned throughout my life and have now been measuring through technology called heart rate variability (HRV) monitoring over the last few weeks.
From abuse as a child to growing up in a broken home, I might have turned out a little differently had I not learned a few amazing coping skills early on. Recently though I have been reminded of the power that stress can have on people through no fault of their own … as my life has felt a bit like a yuppie country song over the past 9 months.
As many of you know, last year I moved my practice to a new location and took on a business partner, for the first time, to facilitate a greater foundation for my clinic. I was also able to encourage Peter Lee, a pharmacist previously from Finlandia Pharmacy, to set up Balanced Health Integrative Pharmacy, to further support my client care. This project was 4 months late getting finished, mostly due to poor project management and major difficulties with several of the trades people that we’re chosen. In brief … it was a nightmare, that in some ways is still not finished!
Recently, I have been working on my property on the Sunshine Coast, preparing to build a eco-home that has net zero energy efficiency. The property is also being set up with a permaculture design that will allow the growth of everything required to survive “off the grid.” A major focus with this property design is to help educate people on sustainability and organic food production, but way more importantly, to have clients that are unable to manage their stress or just need a break from the city to come to the property to unwind for free! (I will write more about this later!)
Recently, the designer that had been working on this project for the last 6 months bailed on us without any warning, in the most unprofessional and unbelievable manner possible. On top of that our beloved Tania (my amazing receptionist) announced that she is moving to Ontario next month.
So these are 2 examples of disappointing events that can really bring people down (, but don’t feel bad Tania as I complete understand and am happy for you. More significantly, for others, is ongoing job stress, challenges with a marriage, school … or whatever is going on in your life that causes a lot of stress! This stress can cause ruminating, or repetitive negative thinking which is really what leads people to chronic disease.
Anyways, that is what has recently been going on for me … so now for the cool part. Over the last few weeks, during these last few stressful events, I have been monitoring my stress levels using a relatively new technology called a heart rate variability monitor. This is a little device that connects to a smart phone or ipad (anything with bluetooth) and measures the differences that occur in heart rate over time. Differences in heart rate measured throughout the day can show stress events both while awake and during sleep, but what is really cool is that it can also give you details about realtime physical stress (such as exercise or food that stresses out our bodies) or emotional stress (interactions with your boss or business partner) responses. Further it records these responses so that we can do something about it, once a pattern is recognized. Another topic that I will need to write more about at another time!
Just for interest though … the device I have is called a Polar H7. It costs between $70 and 90. The apps that I have been using to monitor heart rate variability are Sweet Beat Life or Sleep Rate. But a fun one to use that requires no monitoring hardware is called “Stressed Out.” It tells you, using the camera and light on your phone, how stressed you are in the moment!
So now for the good part. Knowing throughout my life that I am very sensitive to my own stress and the stress of others, I have been using techniques that help to control stress and after monitoring my heart rate variability I am convinced that these techniques are effective, for me! They are also really easy, free and anyone can learn how to do them … but it just takes a little work and patience.
#1. Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing. Avoid chest rise when possible. Use a book on your stomach while lying down if you need to learn.
#2. Controlling blood sugar. I avoid refined sugar, most fruits and excessive starchy carbs without some healthy fats to accompany them.
#3. Meditation. I try to meditate as little as 5 minutes every day, but ideally meditation should be done for 20 to 30 minutes 2 times per day. First timers, consider programs like Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction training or Holosync, Lifeflow, Heartmath or go to the Swingle Clinic.
#4. I believe this is the most important thing. I call it PMS …. a Positive Mental State. I am definitely one to get frustrated easily … as I have some pretty high standards, but it is essential, as quickly as possible, to just let it go! Trying to actively eliminate ruminating or automatic negative thinking is essential to stress reduction.
#5. Grounding. This one sounds flaky but if you need to “cool off” run your hands under ice cold water for a minute or so. This creates a conductive circuit to the earth through water. It works immediately and can be done anywhere without arousing suspicion.
#6. Exercise. I find it tough to follow a regiment recently as I am so busy … so I maintain activity outdoors as much as possible. Really … who doesn’t feel better after a walk or some work in the garden!
Give these a try or employ your own techniques to help take control of your stress.