By Dr. Rhonda Jolliffe
An examination of health history and lifestyle choices are considered in the plan of care during a medical visit. In the past 22 years and thousands of patient visits, the infamous question of the hour arises:
“Are there any added
stressors in your life?”
The responses are many including crinkled noses, gasping for air, and cliché statements, such as:
“I’ve been stressed my whole life.”
“Stress — what is that?”
“Nothing I can’t handle.”
“Out of control.”
Excessive stress in our society is now what I call an epidemic.
Lifestyle choices are the cornerstone of my treatment plan for patients, and, hands down, the hardest to change is managing stress — not the change in diet, increase in exercise, or even getting people to change their sleep habits — it is clearly the area where individuals feel they have no control.
To change one’s stress is near impossible; however, to assist one in helping them to manage stress is an education process of understanding. Stress is inevitable, so let’s embrace it instead of fighting it. Characteristics of those who seem to handle life’s stress versus those who tend toward developing health conditions in relation to stress include having resiliency and practicing daily rituals.
Resilience is defined as the capacity to recover quickly from difficult times. Toughness. Grit. It has been shown that resilient people tend to maintain a more positive outlook and cope with stress more effectively, and although this comes naturally to some people, there are tools you can learn to improve your resilience. Common threads in people who tend toward resilience are being flexible and accepting of change, fulfilling a purpose in their life, having social networks, finding the positives in situations, and practicing self-care, such as making healthy lifestyle choices.
These practices put your body in the parasympathetic nervous system or the calming system. We spend way too much time in our sympathetic nervous system or the fight or flight system.
Just 30 minutes each day should be spent on daily rituals that may include:
Positive self-talk — tell yourself how wonderful and beautiful you are everyday.
Deep breathing — I like the 7-7-7 method: seven seconds inhale, seven seconds hold, seven seconds exhale. Repeat three times and do every hour.
Exercise that includes relaxing exercises such as yoga, pilates, or stretching.
Prayer and meditation
Journaling. My favorite is a gratitude journal. Write down three to five things every day you are grateful for. Watch your attitude change!
Find your passion.
Practice kindness. A smile and words of support and encouragement don’t just make someone else feel good, they releases your endorphins as well.
Pope Francis in his 2015 address said, “For all the obstacles we see before us, gratitude and appreciation should prevail over concerns and complaints.”
It is important to stay optimistic, as there is always a positive side to everything. When you choose to find the blessings in your toughest times, you become stronger and build resilience. It can be hard to find the positive outcomes in certain situations; however, keep in mind that life is a journey of ups and downs, and have faith that the hard times may be our greatest teaching moments.
Embrace the stress and be grateful for the teachings of your journey in this lifetime.