Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Manage Stress With Physical Strength

Create A Stress Busting Foundation

Love, love, love her!  It's the empowering and unique Susan Powter, 
coaching a client and sharing her "no nonsense" approach to the basics of wellness,
which are also the basics to successful stress management : )

With Physical Strength

I went through a crazy, out of control, stressful time, several years ago.  It was February 2007. It was freezing. I was in the last semester of finishing my bachelor's degree.  I had to put my cat of thirteen years down over Christmas Break and I had just been informed that a friend had passed from ovarian cancer (I was unable to attend the memorial service due to very icy roads).

As if this wasn't enough, my partner, through no fault of his own, was having a hard time keeping a job and we were having car trouble.  As a result, I had to get rides to school from my parents and I was becoming increasingly aware that my father was most certainly becoming a cranky old man as he had taken to snapping and yelling at me on our rides to school.  All of this and I was somehow supposed to write a thesis that would further research in my field and maintain my personal goal of keeping a high GPA for grad school.

Standing in the thick of it, I opened one of my favorite books, The Healing Drum, by Blackwolf and Gina Jones, centered myself and flipped through the pages.  I needed to focus and needed some meaningful words to lift me up.  I stopped flipping the pages and was presented with a lesson from the trees.

     "The ice grip of Winter puts stress on Earth Mother. She acquiesces to Winter's claim, but she is not claimed.  Her trees yield and the sap sinks down to their roots.  Sink down to your roots and yield to the stress of life. Ground yourself in Earth Mother." (p. 208)

Messages directly from the Universe always move me, especially in the form of ideas from the Great Spirit.  I immediately felt grounded and got out my yoga mat.  For me, the easiest way to ground myself is with  yoga  and keeping my core, my "trunk", strong was the only thing that made sense.  Along with scattered hikes in the park, it was the one thing I did daily, sometimes hourly, that got me through the rest of the semester, which lead to handing in my thesis two weeks early and graduating Magna Cum Laude.

Research has shown that regular physical exercise functions as a cushion against stress and therefore may help shield the body from the effects of nerve-racking events. Exercise elevates mood and physiologically reduces stress by pumping up your endorphins, the brain's “feel-good” neurotransmitters. Regular physical activity also psychologically effects stress by providing distraction from daily worries: offering the chance for constructive daydreaming and visualization.

Personally, I've found that physical strength supports emotional strength. When my muscles are strong, my body is supported and I have a better self image. When I feel strong physically, I feel less overwhelmed emotionally and can therefore handle daily stressors more easily.

Cardiovascular exercise and strength training are the best method available for combating stress. This free ammunition is readily available for your stress busting arsenal, all you have to do is start moving. Any form of exercise will increase your brain's endorphins. Begin with something you find enjoyable. Step outside your front door and take a walk. Do some push ups or some yoga.  You will notice the difference immediately.

(Be sure to consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program.)

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