Aah, the holidays – after Christmas & New Year, some of us have enjoyed Auckland Anniversary weekend, and those of us in New Zealand have Waitangi Day off to look forward to on 6th February.
Even if we don’t go away on holiday, we can still enjoy a “staycation”. It is a good opportunity to take stock of our lives, re-evaluate & perhaps re-set the course for the coming year. This may be in the form of establishing small good habits (eg, ensuring there is no food or dirty dishes left on the kitchen bench before leaving the house) to bigger things, like reducing portion sizes or committing to a regular exercise regime, or deciding whether what we do for work is really what we want to be doing with our lives.
The Build-Up of Stress
The build-up to Christmas and the summer holidays can be a very stressful time, something noted in an article in “The Listener” by an overseas author just before Christmas 2017; they marvelled how, unlike the Northern Hemisphere, we have Christmas, New Year, summer holidays and the end of the academic year all at once – no wonder many of us feel under pressure.
The summer break can be a good opportunity for us to examine how we manage our stress and we can explore coping strategies which suit us best. Stress is something we all have from time to time – some people more than others. Sometimes it can be good (helping us focus to meet a deadline), sometimes not so good (eg trying to fit too many things into one day, or making a presentation to a boss or to colleagues or to a public audience). Scientifically speaking, stress is an evolutionary adaptation to help us survive. It temporarily increases awareness & can improve physical performance for short periods of time. It speeds up the heart rate, breathing & raises blood pressure, which keeps us alert and tense. However, this is not meant to be sustained for long periods of time, as it can initiate health problems such as anxiety attacks, hypertension & obesity.
Some of us are stressed more often, & some of us stress out about everything. We can feel stressed even when there’s nothing specific we can identify as the cause – we are just tense and anxious all the time. This is where stress has evolved into chronic stress. This is nothing to be guilty about, it just is, and sometimes we need to seek support from an outside source. This is where making an appointment with a health professional comes in.
In some cases, going down the medical route may be appropriate. A visit to a GP may result in medication, perhaps only short-term, to give you space to sort yourself out. A GP may also refer you on to a specialist.
However, in many cases, a visit to a naturopath for an overview of where you are at and for a safe place to discuss the problem & the factors contributing to it and to put in place a holistic plan is a good place to start. Naturopaths will discuss with you your lifestyle and help identify hotspots which may be causing distress & disturbing your equilibrium and then help you troubleshoot accordingly. You can be assured that you will be treated with respect and compassion, and of course everything discussed remains confidential. We look at diet, exercise and how you spend your down-time & tailor-make a strategy. It may be surprising just how effectively a little regular exercise can decompress stress and anxiety!
Meditation (or prayer) may provide answers. The adrenalin we experience when we are in stress mode is directly counteracted by meditation, which induces the exact opposite thing in the body; it slows down breathing, heart rate and reduces blood pressure.
Meditation does not have to be a big commitment – just a few minutes a day can make a big difference. It’s enough just to establish the habit.
Also, disregard the popular myths about “emptying the mind”. Meditation is about being present and paying attention to your thoughts.
In our clinical practice we have had some excellent results with clients who have chosen to go with guided meditation or imagery; they choose a setting which they particularly relate to and conduct themselves through a progressive meditation or pathway. This can be done either still and quiet in a room in your house, or, if you are that kind of person, it can be an active meditation, that is, done while walking. There are many apps you could look at, or ask your naturopath.
Then the idea is to try & apply the mindfulness mindset to your life in general; practise calming your mind and centring yourself whenever you can.
Sometimes when you come to talk to us about stress and anxiety management, as well as diet, exercise & lifestyle discussion we may prescribe a herbal formula, herbal tea or a supplement designed to help you relax.
The beginning of the year is a great time to address the issues of stress and anxiety, to take control and put a plan in place. If this is something you need help with, please do not hesitate to call us on 09 282 3588 to book an appointment with Marion or David.