A patient asked me, not too long ago, “Dr. Carolle, you always seem so happy, what do you do when you are under a lot of stress?”
It is my goal to take the opportunity to give patients pearls of wisdom when they are seeking it from me. I am always careful to take into account the patient’s background, experiences, and symptoms. This helps me to frame my response in a way that will provide the person maximum benefit and peace of mind. This particular question is one that has been posed to me by many patients over the course of my career and because of this, I feel compelled to elaborate on my answer for anyone interested or curious about how to maintain a sense of joy, even during times of great stress.
The word “stress” is very commonly used, as if it is a normal byproduct of the demands of life. Stress is the effect that these demands have on our mind, body, and soul. It’s what Mother Nature built into humans and animals alike to help species overcome adversity. It is meant to induce the “fight or flight” response, to allow us to overpower our enemies or to escape. When we react to something we perceive as danger, our body pumps out a series of hormones that make us more alert and ready to act.
Acute stress affects the autonomic nervous system. Heart rate increases, pupils dilate, blood rushes toward large muscles and away from the fingers and toes. Muscles can tighten and adrenaline and cortisol are released into the blood stream. If we act on these signals with our physical body, by running or fighting, this excess of energy is used.
In modern society, stress confronts us at work and at home, and in the streets, but not in the form of a lurking saber-toothed tiger. So our body’s “alert” is turned in other directions. Sometimes we exercise, running or lifting weights to “chill out.” If we can’t move about, stress keeps pumping the hormones into our bloodstream until they assault our blood vessels, our heart, our immune system and our liver.
The majority of patients I see that are plagued with emotional symptoms such as anxiety, anger, insomnia, worry, irregular bleeding, sexual issues, memory problems, weight issues, and many more, are simply overwhelmed by life happenings.
You can’t eliminate stress from your life. In fact, you don’t really want to. Some stress helps you focus your energies, sort your priorities, make decisions, and perform better. The secret is to know how to control stress.
Yes, I am living the best time of my life, soon turning 65 and applying for Medicare. And I do look good and flaunt my age!!!!
So what I have learned about being stressed, and how to deal with it, that can be of benefit to you?
- We become stressed when we realize that we are in a situation that is out of our control, or when we cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. Most situations have a beginning, middle, and an end, whether we believe this or not. It is all part of our destiny, and lessons we need to learn.
- Sometimes it is the uncertainty, or fear of the unknown, that induces stress. I know that by worrying I cannot change a hair on my head. So what I do, is grab a piece of paper and write about all the options I have, taking into consideration the fact that the given situation may not turn out the way I want. Doing so gives me a plan B to follow just in case.
- I have learned to be patient and let any situation that is uncomfortable unfold, knowing that it will be for my highest good.
- I make sure that I surround myself with those who only nurture me, enhance my life, and make me a better person. I let go of those who don’t – even family members.
- I spend time often in my beautiful botanical garden that I started 15 years ago. It is now full of fruit trees that feed me throughout the year; beautiful flowers of all kinds, cacti, succulents, etc., and there are the beautiful birds, lizards, ants, bees, butterflies, fireflies, and the occasional foxes, raccoons, and let not forget the gophers who dig holes whenever they want, even though they are not invited. I am always in awe of the power of nature and all the good that is there to replenish my soul.
- I am human, and sometimes regardless of my inner wisdom, I do become impatient. So when it occurs, I take a deep breath and repeat either of the following “This too shall pass, this too shall pass….” Or “All things happen for my highest good… All things happen for my highest good…” When I am overwhelmed, I get down on my knees by my bedside, cry, and as the tears run down my cheeks and lighten my heart, I repeat over and over “Lord, I surrender! I leave it up to you, knowing my strength is coming from you!”
Now, take the time to write down the things that bring you solace during hard times and put it in a place where you can see it at all time. Remember, practice makes perfect! With time, it will get easier and easier to de-stress.
Best of Health!