Stress and Health

Origami on beach that says work, life, balance

Work-Life Balance and Exercise

work life balance, exercise, motivation, self careBy Grahak Cunningham

We have all finished a tough day at work and then come home from a run or the gym and felt the benefits, both physical and mental. Sweating out the problems of the day, we can feel pleased with ourselves and leave the worries and problems of everyday life behind. Something about it invokes a clarity in our mind and hearts.

So what is the connection between exercise and stress management? Firstly let us look at situations where things just aren’t happening.

Mental stress causes real problems when we are attempting something. Everybody on earth has experienced the stream of endless and meaningless thoughts that crop up in the mind, not just people who exercise regularly. Think back to a time when you have been lying in bed unable to sleep. Never-ending banter and thoughts make you agitated and restless. As a result you toss and turn and cannot rest. The mind will do this all the time unless you learn to control it.

Any doubts or negativities will directly affect your mood and performance whether it is at work or in a fitness situation. I found it happened when training for an ultra-marathon: getting myself depressed about another run or the jog meant I would I lose all enthusiasm.

For example I went for a run the other day and just couldn’t get in the zone. There was no flow. I got every single traffic light on the way to the bush trails, everything ached and I wanted to walk. My mind kept telling me how torturous this particular run was and the best thing about it was finishing. It happens to us all.

When we hit the wall exercising, our bodies have reached tipping point and our minds will chime in with it’s It two cents worth. It’s funny, though, most of us will keep going. It would be much simpler to quit, easier to catch a bus home and sit on the couch, but we don’t.

Something inside us won’t give up and we keep moving forward trying to reach the goal. Stress management techniques involve touching on this something and help to maintain positivity, health and general well-being despite being in what could be considered a ‘stressful’ situation. During a run my heart rate is elevated, I am sweating and tired…just like a tough day at work.

Combining Exercise with Relaxation Techniques

If you have never tried meditation or stress management techniques formally it is probably not that foreign to you. Everyone has meditated sometime or another. Being under a canopy of stars, the simple smile of a child, the vastness of an ocean, the power of a mountain, they stir something inside us and make us feel uplifted. It is the same when exercising.

During strenuous physical activity it’s certainly possible to maintain clarity and peace. Nature helps carry you. Your mind and body feel purified. Fitness regimes push us to take that extra step, to move forward despite obstacles, to transcend ourselves, to make progress. The further or harder you go, the deeper you have to dig. Exercise is a simple thing. We are forced to be focused and positive. If we don’t it’s very noticeable and you have a tough run, just like I did.

It makes sense to combine meditation and sport on a more formal level. Many great sportsmen talk about moments of absolute conviction before a major victory or event. They feel at peace with the race, game, or task ahead. Nothing is forced and as a result, victory or achievement just flows.

Watch any professional tennis star about to receive a serve. They are deep in concentration. Nine-time Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis meditated before his big races. “I would just go quiet and try to listen for the farthest sound away…just having my peace, where it all stops and you’re just aware of where you need to be.” He once commented. “Every record I set, I knew it was a record because it was the easiest race I ran.”

To do well in sport (or anything for that matter) you need focus, clarity, and concentration; skills that can be learnt through formal practice. The repetitive movement and regular breathing in running for example helps induce a calm and reflective mind, with it comes a positive power. I have been 1000 miles into an ultra and sometimes I felt like I had the strength of ten men coursing through my body.

A Relaxation Exercise

  • Do this exercise sitting upright in a chair
  • It is advisable to practice with your eyes open so you can use it while at work or excercising
  • Chose a quality like peace
  • Breathe in this quality into the mind and body, relaxing all your muscles
  • Breathe out the opposite, in this case anything that takes away your peace such as stress, restlessness and intruding thoughts
  • Try the same thing while exercising and try other positive qualities such as power, joy, or strength

grahak cuninhaamGrahak Cunningham is based between Australia and New York and is a motivational speaker and business speaker and four time finisher and 2012 champion of the Self-Transcendence 3100 mile race.

Stress Management: Your Health Depends On It

stress management, stress in america, chronic stress, healthIf your teeth are clenched and your fists are clenched, your lifespan is probably clenched.” -Terri Guillemets

Stress management is a hot topic with the release of the Stress in America survey last week. This annual survey helps to pinpoint sources of American’s stress level. It reveals sources in reference to gender, generation, and stress triggers.

According to this American Psychological Association survey, the top causes of stress in 2012 were money, work, the economy, family responsibilities, relationships, family health problems, and personal health concerns.

Although more people were concerned with healthy choices and the need to reduce stress, folks were having a difficult time achieving their health goals. These reasons include lack of willpower, lack of time, the cost of making changes and stress itself.

Are we getting numb to stress?

You may find that stress experienced on a daily basis may be manageable. However, a high level of stress can eventually be thought of as normal every day occurrence. Chronic stress that doesn’t change can lead to health issues. Ignoring anxiety won’t make it go away. It will manifest in other parts of your life, such as poor sleep and agitation. What if you believed there were other healthy options to cope with your anxiety?

How you see stress makes a difference

Stress is perceived differently with each individual. What can seem devastating to one person might not affect the next person at all. Your thoughts and reaction to stress is the key. A friend, I’ll call Janice, was overwhelmed with starting a side home business. She worked as an office manager during the day and handled home responsibilities with her family at night. After everyone was tucked into bed, Janice worked on developing her new business.

“I want to do something different with my life and help other people with my product and ideas,” she said.” It just seems like I’m always behind and I never feel caught up. I don’t have any time for me.”

You see, Janice saw her life as unmanageable when in fact she was paving her way to freedom. She looked at what was directly in front of her rather than the big picture.

You have choices in self- care.

Stress can seem overwhelming, leading some to believe that there is nothing to do about issues other than to endure them. Believe you have choices, even if you can’t see what other options are available.

Pick one response to stress you would like to change. Changing your reaction to stress doesn’t mean you need to shift everything at once. For example, a goal might be to eat healthier foods. However, you find yourself pushed and not planning meals during the day. Explore your choices in healthier eating. Maybe you choose to pack your lunch or pick healthier restaurants for meals. Making one healthier choice can lead to putting another change in place.

This is just one example of how to shift your stress behavior and overcome your barriers to a healthy life. Reach out for help if it is difficult to see how to manage our stress differently by contacting a health professional or coach. Your health does depend on it.

What stressful problem would you like you change? Leave you comments below.

Stress and Health: How Chronic Stress Affects Your Future Health

“Stress is the trash of modern life – we all generate it but if you don’t dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life”–Danzae Pace

Each day you experience some level of stress. Worrying can be a daily habit. Your mind is at work constantly, spinning about problems that have happened and what is yet to come. In fact, anxiety never seems like it lets up. Neck and back tension, the knot that stays in your stomach and jittery agitation just lives under the surface of your skin. You begin to think that worrying is a normal everyday part of life. The truth is that the effects of chronic stress have begun.

When you worry, chemicals are released in your body that send you into a flight or fight alert. It’s like turning on a switch to tell your body that something is wrong or that you are in danger. What happens if the switch to stress stays on? Once you think that anxiety and worry are part of your life, you forget that relaxation, or “rest and digest” mode is even and option.

When you worry, you borrow against your future health and well being.

A recent study from Penn State University has linked stress to future health risks. The study reports it’s not the stressors, or things that make you worry that cause health issues. It’s your response to stress that determines if you will suffer future health effects.

According to David Almeda, professor of human development and family studies, how you react to what happens today can foretell chronic health issues and ten year from now, aside from your current health and stress yet to come.

“Stress is not what happens to us. It’s our response to what happens. And the response is something we can choose” ~Maureen Killoran

When you are in a heightened state of stress, it’s truly hard to see all options in how to handle the problem. It’s far more natural in an anxious state to become victim to a flight or fight response. You forget that you have a choice in how you respond to stress.

The bottom line is learning how to manage stress more effectively.

It can seem totally overwhelming to make one more change in your life. You carefully have all the pieces in place for your life to work. One piece out of place and you will lose control…or at least that’s what you might believe.

 There are a few steps to get started in changing how you respond to stress.

1.    Pick three times a day that you take time to relax. Start with 15 minutes at a time. Be very conscious that the time is for you to recharge. Pick something that will clear you mind, such as a short walk, writing in a journal, deep breathing, or reading. Short relaxation techniques will work, too. This will help you remember what it is like to stop the stress response in your body.

2.    Breathe. The stress response causes us to breathe quick and shallow. Try deep belly breathing to reduce tension and get more oxygen in your body. Place your hand on your belly and feel it expand with the rise and fall of each breath. Breath in relief and exhale stress.

3.    List five things you are grateful for when caught up in the stress response. When you are stressed, you are living in the past and/or the future. Gratitude lists put us back into the present moment. The beauty is that the present moment is a worry-free space.

How you handle stress with catch up to you and your health. Begin to make choices today the will affect your future health.

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