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“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”
Norman Vincent Peale
This is the third week of a 12-week program where we will adapt the principles outlined in Dr. Kelly Traver’s life-changing book, The Program. Those of you who are learning about this program are welcome to join. As a participant in this 12-week program, you will be expected to contribute as follows:
• Show up and post weekly.
• Undertake the weekly exercises and report on your efforts.
• Playfully and enthusiastically encourage others.
I was happy to see that many of you purchased Dr. Traver’s book, “The Program,” because I am unable include the vast amounts of information and tips she includes in her book. This week’s chapter on stress is jam-packed with useful information. Here are the highlights of week 3:
Managing Stress Is An Essential Skill
Dr. Traver begins by telling us that “. . . stress management is one of the most important skills you need for staying healthy . . .” Under stress, our bodies react quickly and comprehensively. Our heart rate increases. Breathing quickens. Blood pressure rises. Blood flow goes from the gut to the skeletal muscles. Blood flow shifts in the brin. Libido decreases. Digestion turns off. Muscles tighten. Blood sugar increases. Fats are releases into the bloodstream. Sweating occurs.
If you remain under stress for long periods of time, your body may begin to display higher blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels. The rate of heart attacks and strokes increases as does heart arrhythmias and infections. Thinking deteriorates, headaches occur along with signs of irritable bowel symptoms. Depression, fatigue, inability to sleep, a heightened sense of pain, heartburn, weight gain and expedited aging are also side effects of chronic stress.
So what are the positive steps we can take to manage stress? Dr. Travers gives us 7 lifestyle strategies:
1. Get regular exercise.
2. Eat regular meals.
3. Get regular sleep (8 hours) nightly.
4. Slow down and enjoy more of less.
5. Set aside time each day to nurture yourself and relax.
6. Create a supportive social network.
7. Meditate, pray or find a source of spiritual comfort.
In the short term, however, what are quick fixes we can use when we feel stressed? Dr. Travers suggests we take a few, very slow deep breaths. While we engage in slow and deep breathing, she suggests we express feelings of gratitude for some area of our live.
Dr. Travers also suggests we engage in progressive muscle relaxation and visual imagery. To read more about these exercises, go to page 102.
Exercise 1: Learn How to Recognize the Signs of Stress
Review the 7 basic elements that will help you keep on an even keel. Use it as a checklist and keep making changes until you are implementing the ideas. For instance, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, skip the nightly news and go to bed an hour earlier. During the week, pay attention to your body’s reactions to stress. Does your thinking get fuzzy? Do you reach for food to comfort yourself? Or a glass of wine to wind down at the end of the day?
Exercise 2: Create a Mini-Stress Reduction Program
When stressed this week, experiment with the slow, deep breathing technique recommended by Dr. Travers. Accompany the deep breathing with thoughts of gratitude. Add a brief (5 minutes to start) daily period of meditation, prayer or contemplation to your routine.
Exercise 3: Do Your Homework and Show Up
Review last week’s goals and decide on this week’s short-term goals. Post your long-term and short-term goals in this topic area.
I look forward to reading this week’s posts from members who are participating in this 12-week program.