balance

Managing Stress in the Midst of Chaos, Change, and Growth

We all experience stress in different ways, whether it be as muscle tension, digestive problems, or issues with our emotions. The way we experience stress is extremely individual, and I am thrilled when I meet others whose stress manifests the same as my own. Just as each of us is unique, the way in which we cope with and manage stress will be just as individual. Ultimately, the goal is to find the tools, methods, activities, and coping skills that work for you.

Before we discuss methods of managing stress, let's discuss what stress is and how it can either benefit or harm us. Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stress) defines stress as "a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a cause in disease causation" and "one of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existing equilibrium."

In evaluating the first definition, we see unmanaged stress may lead to various forms of disease. The most common conditions I see in my acupuncture and Reiki practice are bodily and emotional pain, varying levels of acute or chronic disease, and unmanaged stress. When these patients and clients enter my clinic, my job becomes helping them to reduce their stress to manageable levels or adapt to an increase level of stress.

Creating Balance in Our Busy Lives

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Finding balance between work, a social life, physical fitness, and the activities we enjoy can be a difficult struggle for many of us. Many times we respond with comments like: “I don’t have time”, “It doesn’t fit into my schedule”, “Let me check my calendar”, or “How can I possibly fit in another [fill in the blank]”. This approach to time is linear and finite because it fails to recognize the value of activities that nourish us on multiple levels.

I will use a recent event in my own life to articulate my point. I have a fairly standard routine each week to include activities that nourish my mind, body, and spirit as well as provide me with some rest and relaxation. I swim a minimum of 3 times per week, I perform Qi Gong/Tai Chi daily, I hike outdoors weekly, and I write poetry and paint weekly. All of these activities consume approximately 10-15 hours per week which is minimal in comparison to running my business, working on a graduate thesis, attending classes, and completing clinical requirements.

I saw an opportunity to finalize some coursework and clinical requirements in one of my graduate programs as well as finishing writing and editing my book for publication. In other words, I decided to sacrifice the previously mentioned activities in the short term but for long-term gain. There were days in which I left my home at 7 am and did not return until 10 pm.