Becoming self-aware of stress

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A year and a half ago I called my father looking for advice. My father has studied and worked in the field of health, biochemistry and physiology for years. He loves health and science, but above all he loves helping people understand how the body works, and providing insight on simple steps to improve health. He’s the founder of Phytotherapi and you may know him as Dr. Ulises. The reason I reached out to my father was because I had just visited the doctor and received a diagnosis I wasn’t happy about. While it wasn’t severe, I was alarmed because I’ve always considered myself a healthy person.  I don’t smoke or drink alcohol; I watch what I eat; and I like to exercise. 

After discussing with my father, including answering some questions regarding my lifestyle, he told me something that completely changed my life: “Jacob, I think you’re stressed and completely unaware of it.” I remember sitting in my car a little confused, and while I didn’t get defensive, I thought he had to be wrong. I didn’t feel stressed. I wasn’t uptight. I hadn’t undergone any sort of traumatic or disconcerting experience or event. Where did he get the idea that I’m stressed? Throughout the next day or two I remember giving it some more thought. I came to the conclusion that since I wasn’t running around feeling upset, frustrated, nervous or any other emotion that I typically associate with stress, I must be fine.

About a month later my father visited our home in Dallas, we had the chance to talk, and the topic of stress came up. While I didn’t feel like I had an issue, I decided to have an open mind about it. He talked to me about some of his recent findings regarding stress and its impact on health. Of all of his findings, he said the most surprising one of all was that most people suffer from chronic stress, but don’t realize it. He said most of us live life in a state of perpetual stress, where we allow strong emotions to control our lives and decisions.

He went on to explain how stress works from a physiological perspective – how the body redirects energy to the muscles and brain so that we can survive when faced with imminent danger. That energy however, doesn’t come from nowhere. In fact, our immune, digestive and endocrine systems end up donating much of their energy so that the stress mechanism can act accordingly. Another way to say it is that these important systems weaken themselves so that our muscles and brains have the potential to react quickly.

This redirection of energy from important systems to the brain and muscles is perfectly healthy and fine, as long as it is temporary. Once we find resolution to a situation and reconcile the event so that we are at peace, the body’s physiology and energy distribution goes back to normal. The key phrases here are “reconcile the event” and “at peace.” It is impossible to be at peace unless a stressful event has been completely reconciled – meaning we’ve learned from it and move on. We don’t let it paralyze us; and we don’t let it become a source of strong emotions such as fear or anger. We take each stressful event as a singular moment in time, and we don’t allow our minds to become lazy in how it associates people or places to negative feelings.

And, as my father explained it, this is where the problem lies. Most of us have a difficult time being at peace because we don’t fully reconcile our stress. For example, let’s say your child wakes up late for school. Now you’re on their back, rushing them out the door. On your way out you notice your spouse forgot to take the garbage out, leaving you a bit frustrated as you leave for work. Now you’re dealing with traffic, and there’s that one car that won’t let you in the lane so you can get off at the right exit. We haven’t even started work yet, and we’re already experiencing challenge after challenge. Luckily once you’re at work everything runs smoothly, right? (I’m kidding here of course).

It is so easy to get tightly wound up within a couple hours of waking up. Before we know it becomes our lifestyle. We didn’t plan for it to be this way; it just ends up happening. And over time we justify behaviors or mindsets that reinforce our stressful lifestyle by creating rationalizations and justifications. Rationalizations such as, “my boss is a jerk,” or “my spouse or child is lazy.” Then we harbor these feelings and every time we get the chance to jump on our boss, spouse or child’s back, we do it. Jumping on their backs doesn’t necessarily mean we yell, chastise or gossip. We can jump on their backs within our minds. Whether we act on those negative thoughts or not is irrelevant. The fact remains that we’ve sown a negative thought, reaping a negative emotion in the process. That negative emotion will inevitably, whether in the short or long term, reap a negative behavior. Even if it’s nothing more than having a negative outlook on aspects of our’s or others’ lives.

What a stressful way to live life. Living this way keeps the stress mechanism active, meaning we’re under perpetual stress, weakening our immune, digestive and endocrine systems. This is what occurs when one is chronically stressed, and becomes a constant cycle that we easily are unaware of. I was doing this all along, and wasn’t even thinking about it. Once my father explained it to me, it clicked.  I understood. I was harboring negative feelings towards certain individuals, experiences and even certain places. I needed to let go.  Otherwise, it didn’t matter how healthy I ate or how many workouts I did – eventually it would catch up with me.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s been a year and a half since I had that initial conversation with my father.  While it’s taken some time to become self-aware of my stress, it’s made all the difference in helping find reconciliation to those situations so that I’m at peace. Like all of us I still have room for improvement, but I’m happy to say that my health has improved since then, and I find myself much more satisfied with my work, regardless of what may be happening around me. Becoming self-aware of stress, and working towards reconciling stressful situations is one of the best things I’ve ever done to help grow professionally and personally. 

If you feel there are things you need to change- negative thinking, reconciling stressful events, etc. Phytotherapi can help. The expertise offered can help to identify manifestations of stress and ways to reconcile stressful experiences, whether past or present. Solutions and protocols help to bring relief to the mind and give you the tools to live a happier life style. I invite you to learn more about how Phytotherapi can help you and those you love live a healthier life.

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