The psychologist walked around the room holding a glass of water. When she raised the glass, everyone expected they'd be asked the "half empty or half full" question. She didn’t. Instead, with a smile on her face, she asked: "How heavy is this glass of water?"
After a moment of adjusting to the unexpected questions, answers rang out ranging from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She smiled again. "The weight doesn't matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it's not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of this glass isn’t going to change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes."
She continued, "The stresses and worries in life are like this glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything."
We all hold on to stress. It’s become a way of life. Short of winning the lottery and buying a private island somewhere, our best option in letting go of stress is to be in control of our response to it. Since we have little control over what happens to us, our best bet is to train ourselves to respond to stressful circumstances without triggering the stress response every time we face it. Here are a few things to help build a more stress-resilient body.
Rest - The best way to quiet the body-mind’s stress response, and to support the recovery process, is to rest. This can include meditative practices, deep breathing, exercising early in the day, and getting adequate sleep.
Nutrition - A well-fed body is a resilient one and better prepared to handle stress and to recover from hormonal floods. Keeping sugar and flour to a minimum while eating plenty of healthy fats and good protein (grass-fed meats, fish, legumes, nuts) will help keep blood sugar on an even keel. The Mediterranean diet is a good choice for this, it includes plenty of legumes, greens and fish and promotes a proper balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Exercise - We all need some kind of physical activity to stay stress-resilient, whether it’s walking, biking, yoga or a game of tennis. Exercise generates mood elevators (endorphins and serotonin) and breaks down cortisol in the bloodstream.
It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As soon as you possibly can, put all your burdens down. Don't carry them through the evening and into the night. That glass is going to get heavy...fast! Put it down!
For more on stress and how it affects us, check out this month’s newsletter by the our Rag Tag Research Geeks.