How reducing Stress heals your Body, Mind and Sleep
A short while ago I wrote a piece on how tai chi can help you to lower stress. But, why do we have ‘stress’ in the first place? How does Tai Chi help to lower our stress levels? Can it keep them lower throughout the day, week, month and rest of our lives please? Well, yes is the short answer to that one, but let’s go back to the beginning.
Why do we have stress?
Its an evolutionary thing, its biology. Back in the days when we lived in caves and were hunter gathers needing to be able to run away quickly was essential. Being, to react very quickly, when challenged by another predator or rival. Anything which could do us harm would cause chemicals to be released from our brains to allow us to go into ‘flight or fight’ mode quickly. To be able to gauge the situation and have the energy and physical strength to either run away from danger, or fight it out.
There is not much danger of being pounced on by a sabre tooth tiger or wild boar on the way to work for most of us these days. So, why do we still experience this?
Stress still serves a purpose
It may not seem like it, but stress can do you some good. I’m not talking about long term stress. Here I refer to short term stress, when you suddenly realise you are late, a car is speeding towards you when crossing the road. These stressful situations make you alert and able to act physically fast, when needs be. They give you a clarity in your mind and vision which you do not have under normal, day to day, circumstances. So, it would seem, stress still has a purpose!
The stresses we face today are just as real as those of the past. Stressing about not being able to pay the bills, being late, our computer or phone not working, the printer jamming, the car breaking down. Even the noise of someone else eating or clinking their cutlery can leave us feeling stressed.
When stress becomes distress
Guilt can often be misinterpreted as stress. For example, you know you shouldn’t eat crisps, but you do. You know you should exercise more, but you miss an exercise session. You then feel guilty about it and experience tension in your body as your mind battles itself. A sort of self induced stress.
It what you do 80% of the time which defines you. If you eat a healthy diet 80% of the time then don’t stress about the odd bag of crisps or piece of cake. If you aren’t yet eating that healthy then work towards it and don’t indulge in negative self-talk, instead praise yourself for your good decisions.
By highlighting the good decisions, you make, you will feel better about yourself and are far more likely to make further better decisions in the future.
Ignore the PR
Looking at adverts is like watching Lord of the Rings – it’s a place that does not exist. Just because the people in the ads look vaguely human doesn’t mean they are! Trying to emulate at TV or magazine ad is crazy. You cannot air brush real life. You will just be giving yourself undue stress by believing in ads. Remember, they are designed to sell you an idea, a wish, a magical world that does not exists that you maybe, could be part of if you just bought this product!
Except not perfect
There are, however, perfect moments. Those precious few seconds experiencing a sun set, looking at a view, laughing with a friend, finding a beautiful flower, the bliss of a hot bath after a long day, the first taste of an amazing meal. These things will be remembered and treasured. But, you need to allow yourself to let go of the stuff in between.
For example, the beautiful sun set. Maybe you had to trudge up a steep hill in the mud before you saw it. And now you have to trudge back again. Laughing with a friend who, maybe you have had arguments with in the past? It doesn’t matter. Look at what you have in front of you and enjoy it, right now. There will always be disappointments in life and there will, thankfully, always be moments of bliss, contentment, happiness and love if you care to experience them.
Life is not perfect and you will give yourself stress if you think it should be. Enjoy the perfect moments, let the other stuff go and you will enjoy more.
Detached, but still part of
Ok, so what is that supposed to mean? A good example is a work scenario. You are part of a group, a team all working towards one goal. Imagine that one of the team starts to become stress, crashing and banging around, talking loudly and in a distraught fashion about something which has gone wrong. And this thing affects all of you.
The thing may affect you, but you do not need to let your colleague’s behaviour affect you. If you are smart you won’t get swept up in all of the drama, but see if you can find a way through, to be effective. In this way you will be much more focused and better at your job.
The same is true in family dramas. Not so easy to remain a part of, but if you can stand on the side lines, even for just a moment, you might just get a clarity of the situation which you would otherwise miss.
Detached Tai Chi
When practising your Tai Chi exercise you will be absorbed in how your body feels as you perform the different movements. In this way you can experience your body in a whole new way. You become detached from it, you observe your body from the outside, while feeling and experiencing the feedback on the inside.
Try this. Hold out your less dominant hand. Slowly touch your index finger to your thumb, then your middle finger, then the ring finger and finally the little finger. Now close your eyes and do it. Now close your eyes and do it again only, imagine that you can see your hand and fingers. Weird eh?
Whilst you were doing this, did anything else bother you? What you are going to have for dinner, you much stop for shopping on the way home, what to buy your friend for their birthday? You were, for that little bit of time, detached from the rest of your life. From the stress and strains and joys of your everyday life.
The Wonders of Tai Chi
This is one of the wonders of Tai Chi. It allows both your body and your mind to be completely absorbed in what you are doing. It allows your body to relax because your mind is not thinking or worrying about the things which cause you stress. Your body then moves more slowly, your breathing is more relaxed too. This, in turn, relaxes your mind and you just focus on your tai chi. It creates a virtuous circle which, after a time of practising, leeks into the rest of your everyday life.
It will pass
You will always experience stress though out your life, in one way or another. You will always experience joy and happiness too, if you open up to this rather than focusing on the things which cause you stress.
It’s true, some things in life are far more stressful than others, e.g. moving house, the break down of a relationship or the loss of a loved one. These are not pleasant situations by any means, but they will pass. They will not continue forever and you need to bear this in mind, even when you are very stressed.
Tai Chi & Qigong is one of the best ways of controlling the worst of Stress. Just 20 minutes a day of Tai Chi will gradually make stress more controllable and leave you feeling better all round. Why not join us now?