What lets you know to be stressed?  For me, it’s a high frequency vibration in my body, as though all of my molecules are in a centrifuge.  My mind often remains very calm, but my physiology never lies.  That’s when I know I need to stop, refocus, and breathe.

Have you ever met a person who seems proud of the amount of stress they are under?  As if to prove that they are busy and important. They couldn’t possibly make time to relax, or get eight hours of sleep, or take a walk, or exercise, or drink a glass of water… those things are all frivolous luxuries!

The truth is, stress is deadly.  There is an immense amount of research regarding the body and stress.  In the massage therapy, as well as the nutrition communities, it is known that stress and poor diet are leading causes in the prolific amount of major illnesses we see today. It’s so prevalent, it feels as though we don’t take it seriously.

How many car accidents do you imagine happen when people are fully present?  Would you say there were more, or less, accidents when the driver was riddled with stress, lost in thought, searching for a pen in the glove box, running stop signs, or racing to be on time? How many arguments occur between couples when one, or both partners, are attempting to process high levels of work, money, or family stress? How many harsh reactions between strangers when they do even the slightest thing that seems to upset the other?  How many unfocused hours of attempted work?  And yet we still view stress as a requirement.

Truth is, stress only happens when we are living in the past or in the future.  There is no stress in the present moment.  I’m so stressed that my presentation wasn’t successful enough.  I’m so stressed by a disagreement I had yesterday with a neighbor.  I’m so stressed by my endless to-do list.  I’m so stressed because of my upcoming doctor’s appointment.  I’m so stressed by these ongoing bills. I’m so stressed that I won’t get it all done on time.  None of these things are actually happening in the now.  None of them are real.  We’ve made them real because of our fears, thoughts, and beliefs.

If you choose to stress and worry, you are basically choosing to poison yourself.  What situation has ever been improved because you worried or stressed out about it?  In fact, we often make more reactive and impulsive decisions when we are engaged in stressful thoughts.  A huge branch falls from a tree and damages your roof.  Water is leaking in. “Oh, no!  I can’t believe this!  How did this happen?  What are we going to do?  This is such a disaster!  I can’t believe we didn’t get the tree trimmed last summer.  Wasn’t that your responsibility to call them?”

Meanwhile, back in reality, a storm happened and a branch fell.  You gather the supplies needed to prevent more damage. You look at each other and feel grateful you are both alright.  In the morning, you call the insurance company.  Stress solves nothing; in fact, it often just makes the situation worse. Very rarely do we feel the need to apologize for the calm, rational reactions and comments that we make.

On top of all of this, when you choose stress, your body drops into the sympathetic nervous system response of fight, flight, or freeze.  There is a significant rush of chemicals that then enter the body to hasten your heart and respiratory rates, among other things. The sympathetic nervous system is part of your autonomic nervous system.  Among the tasks of the autonomic nervous system are:  regulating digestion, maintaining the heart and respiratory rates, as well affecting sexual arousal.

So, let’s imagine you are chronically in a fight or flight response.  How do you believe your body does at digesting food?  How much extra taxing is required by the heart with constant fluctuations in rate?  Your breathing rate is often hastened, causing tightening in your throat and neck muscles.  Your responses to sex are diminished.  And, to top it all off, after enough times of doing this, you will find it more difficult to achieve the parasympathetic response.  Simply put, that’s the one that undoes all of this.  Big breath in….and let it out.

Breathing is one of the simplest ways to regain the present moment.  Consciously filling your belly with a big breath, then pushing that same breath back towards the kidneys, and finally up through the sternum.  It’s called three dimensional breathing and it takes focus.  This takes the mind out of the haste of past and future, and lands you back in the now—the only thing that actually exists.

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