We often talk about the negative effects stress has on the body, mind, and spirit. In fact, as part of my research for the Ageless Diet™, I’ve learned how aging stress can be.
Stress is responsible loss of productivity, poor health, hypertension. Stress is inflammatory. And inflammation is aging and candy for disease. It’s why as part of the Ageless Diet™, meditation is key. Meditation helps us handle stress better. It gives us clarity and perspective.
An estimated one million workers miss work because of stress-related complaints. And it’s often said that stress’s effects on reproduction, growth, and immunity makes it a threat to our very survival. Research shows 70-90% of all doctor visits are stress related. Stress negatively affects most of the organs in our bodies. We all know what stress feels like; we all have stresses in our lives. We always have. It’s part of the human condition. Built into being alive on the planet is death. And for many, death or threat of death is stressful. And then there’s poverty, loss, heartbreak, hunger, work, childrearing, moving, downsizing, success, getting married, travel, driving, traffic, divorce, college, all of these things and more are stressful. Or, at least, they can be.
And, how and what we eat affects our stress levels. It’s one reason diet is a key part of the Ageless Diet™. Once you support your body and mind with good food, supplements, and enough nutrients, you are better able to deal with the specific and random stresses in life. But that doesn’t address that fact that stress is a naturally occurring part of life.
We know stress kills and ages us prematurely, makes us look and feel old and sick, and we also know stress is a fact of life. So, what’s the answer?
Perspective. Shift our perspective. It’s why meditation is great. It helps us keep these big and small stresses in life in perspective. For a majority of us, we can’t control all the stresses in our lives, but we can control our reaction to these stresses. We live in a fear-based society. One that supports our fearful reactions to life. It’s seen as natural and right to be stressed, scared, freaked out, and worried about what’s going on now, what’s next, and who’s out to get us… Wow, that’s stressful. What if we assumed the universe had our backs? What if we assumed everyone wished us well, as we wish others well? What if we believed we were supported, loved, and cared for?
I like what I call the Zen wait and see attitude. The other day I was reading my favorite 6 year old a book, something about a Zen panda. And one of the stories the panda told was about an farmer in China. Stuff kept happening to the farmer, good and bad, and his neighbors would react accordingly. Oh lucky you, wild horses came onto your farm, and now they’re yours. Oh unlucky you, your son broke his leg riding the horse. Oh lucky you, your son’s broken leg kept him out of the army and war. And so on and so forth. Each time something happened to our Zen farmer and his neighbors reacted, he said, maybe. He controlled his reaction, and he knew what was good maybe wasn’t so great, and what was bad maybe wasn’t so dreadful. Life has a funny way of turning out. Good and bad things happen, but they’re only good and bad because we say they are. And these reactions to things happening are, in large part, what stresses us.
The other way we can handle stress is to reframe it. I just gave you a few reasons stress is so bad for us. But, what if I told you stress enhances your life; it makes you more alert and present and alive? Stress can make you a better athlete, performer, artist, lawyer, waiter… when we’re “on,” and feeling alive, we’re often in a stressful situation. But that can be where the fun happens. What if I told you stress makes you more creative and productive? Hormones released in the stress response boost performance on cognitive tasks and memory. Stress ain’t all that bad. It’s all in our perception.
And if you start to see stress as a given in life, a life in a universe that supports and nourishes you, and as something that can improve your performance in life, perhaps you can change your reaction to stresses at home, at work, and in life.
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About the Author: Tania Van Pelt is the creator of Happiness Series. She is a writer and content creator, working in film, tv, and online. She wrote the popular lifestyle book "Ageless Diet," published in late 2015. And she is currently working on her next book. She also developed a sitcom pilot set in the restaurant business called "Employees Only TV" and is developing another web series comedy about Denver.