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Inspiration   -   15/02/2021

STRESS THE PEST: Do you know what Stress is doing to you?

Hi All,

I’m Grace, a second year, Theology and Religion university student. At this point you are probably wondering why I am writing for INNATE. It is true, I am no scientist, and I don’t have any impressive letters after my name. I am just a regular 20-year-old trying to live life. By life I don’t mean existing but by enjoying our existence. As a result, I have read and listened to all types of wisdom to give myself the best chance at a truly satisfied life. Growing up as a part of ‘Gen-Z’, I have observed the reduction of happiness, which almost seems to be at the point of becoming an endangered species. This is unequivocally devastating and worrying; a generation that arguably has so much appears to be the most discontented group. This juxtaposition has fuelled my passion to understand how to live a life of joy. It would be an honour if my discoveries helped anyone else.

So, why INNATE? It almost seems providential that I met Elsa (co-founder of INNATE) in my kitchen. We started the regular small-talk and I quickly realised that not only is Elsa extremely well-informed, but she has also created an incredible brand around her passion of physical and mental well-being (a passion that we share). INNATE currently consists of delicious and nourishing crisps, alongside an emotional well-being App. However, they are looking to develop their brand and create many other tools to happiness. It is all very exciting.

I am going to be writing on here to try and aid INNATE’s pursuit of mental and physical health. They will be various themes to this blog- the first one is Silver Linings. Here goes…

 

STRESS THE PEST: Do you know what Stress is doing to you?

The word for the last 11 months has been ‘unprecedented’. Indeed, we are living in extraordinary times but I’m not going to dwell on the frustrations and limitations in this post. We all know the emotional drain stress has on our everyday lives. However, it has also been proven that stress physically damages your body. To name a few, it can impede your immune system, toxify your body, reduce the energy produced by mitochondria and increase the thickness of artery walls. As I have confessed, I am no scientist, but even with the previously mentioned factors, we can see that stress is not beneficial. So why have I highlighted the detrimental effects of stress in such an anxious time? Well, what I am going to suggest is that we should treat stress just as we would approach a broken limb, with a proactive plan to tackle an impairment which drains us mentally and physically. It is worth noting that I am not trying to down-play the immense difficulties of the current times. However, from personal experience, the times I have avoided stress have been occasions when I have proactively chosen to. Therefore, it may be fair to suggest that our situations are not the root of our stress, but in fact, we are. The Choice, is an incredible book about Edith Eger’s survival of Auschwitz aged 16 and then her subsequent healing process, leading to her becoming a top phycologist. (She has written The Choice, The Gift and has done many interviews and podcasts. Her website is https://dreditheger.com/ and I cannot recommend her work more.) Anyway, back to the current situation and stress. In The Choice, Edith writes:

“Here you are! In the sacred present. I can’t heal you—or anyone—but I can       celebrate your choice to dismantle the prison in your mind, brick by brick. You can’t       change what happened, you can’t change what you did or what was done to you.        But you can choose how you live now. My precious, you can choose to be free.”    (Eger, Edith, The Choice, (New York: Scribner, 2017)

Edith eloquently shows that we don’t have to wait for life to return back to normal in order to deal with our stress. In fact, the more stressful the situation, the more important it is we deal with our anxieties; the damage to our physical and emotional wellbeing simply cannot be ignored. So why do we stress if it is so harmful? We are designed to stress in short bursts to aid our fight or flight reaction. I’m sure the thought of being in a perpetual state of fight or flight is not attractive to you, nor would you wish it one someone you cared about. Well, this is almost synonymous with being stressed. I do not intend to instil anxiety, but to motivate us to deal with our stress. Since the vast amount of people are enduring one of the most stressful periods of their life, instead of shying away, I suggest turning into the eye of the storm. We can create a storm or tranquillity out of any situation, so why don’t we embrace the current stressful situation together?

As I have mentioned, I am not a qualified psychologist or scientist, but the information I have collected over time really has helped me and if this post helps just one person it is worth it. Firstly, I would hedge my bets that all things I am about to mention you have time for. A 2019 article in the Guardian wrote that:

 

 

This amounts to over a week a year spent on one’s phone. Some of this screen time is necessary, yet I don’t think I’m unique in the fact that the vast majority is meaningless. As we feel stressed and lack time, surely we should aim to maximise the time we do have to nurture our physical and mental well-being?

Here are a few suggestions that I hope are helpful:

 

  1. Read. I’m sure many people have told you to read a book. A daunting prospect when you are exhausted at the end of the day and would prefer an easy scroll on your phone. However, it doesn’t matter if its only one page a day. Reading will reduce the energy we give to FOMO created through social, whilst stimulating and relaxing us. Even if we only manage to read one book a year, I would suggest that this would be infinitely more fulfilling then spending the same amount of time stressing about everything others have done.
  2. Food. Whilst many are working from home or find themselves at a loose end, it seems that we have more control and energy for cooking. Dedicating time to eating well will fill some people with excitement, others with dread. Yet, fuelling your body with the correct nutrients is absolutely essential. By whatever means you decide to do this, it will nourish you physically and mentally. The function of the gut is intertwined with our stress, hence it must be provided with the correct fuel.
  3. Goals. Whatever these are (exercise, cooking, reading) give yourself a purpose. In a time when life can seem monotonous and unmotivating create your own aim. Perhaps, do it alongside a friend to help hold each other accountable. Also, it seems that a purpose makes us more effective in whatever we do. Instead of dawdling, goals will help create structure, meaning and positivity as we work towards them.
  4. The Mundane. Whatever you do, centre yourself and be thankful. Did you know that if we use our peripheral vision it calms us? This is because when we were in fight or flight, we focussed on one thing, thus, to use our peripherals reminds your body that you are not in a stressed situation. This does not require much time or energy but will help de-stress. There are things we do daily which may seem an irritating use of time: sleep, wash, brush our teeth even eating. However, imagine if you made yourself give thanks every-time you drank some water, for instance. Being joyful in the small things will amount to a life filled with positivity. You don’t need to be on a yoga-retreat to deal with your stress. Instead, celebrate the mundane.

I hope this you feel more informed about the necessity to reduce stress and that you feel encouraged and equipped to embrace life, as ‘unprecedented’ as it currently is. Choose joy and remember that stress is indeed a pest.