What is stress?
The definition of stress is not definitive but for most of us it is a word with negative connotations of being under a lot of pressure or feeling strung-out.
Our big problem with stress is that we live in a culture that has embraced it as a necessary evil. Most of us understand that it is not healthy to be stressed out all the time, but we also have strong beliefs that it is good to be busy, that work is the priority, that we can't let people down etc.
Furthermore, if we really examine our motives, many of us might find that there is an underlying attachment to the sense of purpose that busy-ness provides.
Though we may complain a lot about how we never have time to relax or enjoy personal time, there are pivotal moments in the day when we could make different choices. Reality is that we have an ingrained stress habit and we are invested.
The legacy of stress - how has this happened, and what does this mean?
Stress comes, of course, from our more animal physiology of survival in dangerous situations (acute stress), and sometimes it helps us to find the resources to achieve our goals and be productive in daily life (eustress).
What Dr. Hans Selye observed when he established the term "stress" in 1936 was how unpleasant physical and emotional stimuli could cause a range of pathologic changes in the body, and the manifestation of seemingly unrelated diseases and ailments overtime (chronic stress).
It is easy to see how we ended up here… the striving to make ends meet draws on basic survival mechanisms (stress energy) which then continue to serve us towards greater achievements and successes.
But we keep shifting the goal posts and we are now at a place where our health is on the line because we are drawing increasingly on emergency reserves to maintain a daily pace.
It makes sense to put our long-term needs on hold to escape from danger and survive the daily hunt, but how much sense does it really make to be working 24/7?
When our body's fight or flight response is constantly being activated, the physical consequences can be extensive. We increase the risk for hypertension, heart attack or stroke, as well as asthma, diabetes, heartburn, ulcers and skin conditions.
Constant muscle tension can lead to severe headaches and migraine attacks. On-going stress changes hormone production and can lower fertility, libido and lead to impotence. It also affects testicular and prostate immunity.
On top of all that, the stress switch on constant (sympathetic nervous system) deprives the body of essential restoration and nutrition (parasympathetic) where healing, digestion and cell regeneration occurs, and our immune system is seriously compromised - it simply cannot function as we need it to.
Evolving away from stress towards healthy, productive living
There is some really interesting information that is challenging the ingrained perspective on stress as a necessary evil. Productivity experts are looking at studies that confirm how more relaxation actually produces people with a greater capacity for productivity and achievement.
Already significant companies and organisations (Coca Cola, Los Angeles Police Department and Google) are changing workplace policy based on the premise that people work best both physically and mentally when they have a healthy rhythm of productivity and output balanced with regular relaxation and rest.
The basic facts on body energy are quite simple:
- Our optimum waking rhythm of energy expenditure and renewal is at 90 minute stretches - ie. we work our best for 1½ hours followed by genuine rest and relaxation.
- Rest provides more energy when we slow our breathing and clear the mental traffic - an hour of deep restoration can equal eight hours of sleep.
- We require an average of 7 hours sleep a night - less than 6 hours over time leads to burn-out (developing or healing bodies need much more).
With chronic illness on the rise, and evidence that exposes stress-for-success as a declining dead-end option, it's time to take a firm hold of reality and make some changes for greater balance.
This is not an ideology, it is simple physics: if we relax sufficiently we will have greater sustainable energy and creativity for all aspects of life.
Use pure essential oils and synergies to support healthy natural balance
Pure essential oils have been proven to reduce anxiety and stress in typically stressful situations, and also to help improve natural sleeping rhythms (see here for more).
They can be diffused, used on pulse points, added to the bath or dropped into a carrier oil for massage. Lavender True is a classic but there are some other wonderful oils that shouldn't be overlooked:
Chamomile (Anthemis Nobilis) brings concentrate sedative and nerve-soothing properties to aid relaxation and sleep.
Sandalwood (Santalum Album ) has sedative and calming powers that complement meditation for a quiet body and mind.
Petitgrain Bigarade (Citrus Auranthium Bigarade ) brings relaxing, comforting qualities used to ease anxiety and emotional stress.
Therapeutic essential oils are even more effective on the nervous system when they are brought together to work in synergy. Some professional blends that can really help to kick start a more balanced life dynamic are:
Stress Less a specific focus to calm the nervous system and help quiet mental traffic. It can be used as a rescue response on pulse points, or to help you rebalance with a bath or room diffusion.
Dream Time makes for good easy sleep with a super-synergy of comforting, relaxing classics including Chamomile Roman, Orange Sweet & Lavender True. Use in the bath, or diffuse in the bedroom.
Tranquility & Meditation restores natural peace with cleansing, balancing aromas including timeless Sandalwood and Frankincense. Use on pulse points or diffuse into your living space.
Deep Relax Massage Oil releases tensions and invites profound calm with powerful oils such as Sandalwood, Lavender, Chamomile and Frankincense, in a smoothing body base. Use on your wrists, ankles and neck, or for full body massage.
Having said all that, finding balance for the work-orientated mindset involves more than just a new stress/relax equation. It really comes down to embracing a whole new quality of life where health and well-being is the common factor in all our choices.
Medicinal-grade essential oils must be 100% pure. At Absolute Essential we use certified organic or wild grown (sustainable) plants to produce our oils and all extraction processes are strictly controlled to produce the best quality oil with a maximum purity and therapeutic value. www.absoluteessential.com