It was a spring morning in my office when Joe, a long time patient, arrived with complaints of chest pain. Joe was a middle-aged man that spent over 30 years as a CEO for the Raytheon Corp. He had done very well financially and had socked away more than enough money to travel the world in style. His company planned on throwing him a retirement party, which was fast approaching. When I examined him, he felt increasingly weak, short of breath and crippled with chest pain. After a normal cardiovascular work up, I determined that his complaints were a result of stress. He questioned, “why would I be under stress, I have the world by the horns”? What he failed to realize is that he spent over 30 years building relationships with people and in just a few short days that would all be over. These people that he treated like family would soon have a new leader and he would be out to pasture. This is what he had failed to realize, when he announced his retirement. After we talked about it, his perception changed. At his retirement party, his colleagues expressed an outpouring of love for Joe and he soon realized that everyone would be OK including himself. He could now move forward and impact others with brand new and exciting endeavors. Within 24 hours following his retirement party, all of his symptoms stopped.
Some stress can be beneficial, producing a boost that provides the drive and energy to help you get through situations like exams or work deadlines. However, an extreme amount of stress can have health consequences and take a severe emotional toll as it did with Joe. Untreated chronic stress can result in serious health conditions including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Research shows that stress can contribute to the development of major illnesses, such as heart disease, depression and obesity. If you take actions immediately you can stop and even reverse the damaging effects of stress.
The time for action is now:
Look for the silver lining.
When things seem overwhelming, just remember that there are at least 2 sides to every story. Don’t let your brain convince you to see things as a negative. If you struggle to understand how a blizzard can be a good thing, simply ask your kids for some wisdom. Someone can always help you to see it differently, which will help you to calm your jets. Through your lens of perception, awaits your reality.
Moving your body in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries. Even a 20-minute walk, run, or bike ride in the midst of a stressful day can give an immediate effect that can last for several hours.
Smile and laugh.
The happy parts of your brain are connected with your facial muscles. The more you smile, the happier you’ll feel. Unfortunately, many hold their stress in their face. You know that guy at work that wears his smile upside down when things get tough? Make smiling a habit and reduce the stress. On average, adults smile 20 times/day while children smile more than 400 times/day. The proofs in the pudding!
Reach out to someone in need.
Researchers have discovered that when you’re stressing, the fastest way to reset your stress hormone system is to help someone else. Yes, I’m suggesting the unthinkable; when you’re struggling emotionally, reach out to someone else and help them. This will help you tremendously. Cool concept, huh? Fulfilling your needs by fulfilling someone else’s first.
When the voices in your head dominate, stress reaches a red line. Shutting off this banter can be a challenge. Meditation and mindful prayer can help you to stay focused, as you reduce the thoughts of a wondering mind. This why a vacation is essential because while on holiday your mind only wants to attend to that cold glass of sangria, to that night of love making or to that amazing culture you’re visiting. Meditation doesn’t have to be an hour of sitting silent. It can be a simple as enjoying the meal in front of you. While eating, focus on the food; how does it smell, how does it taste? Chew slowly and put your utensils down often between bites. Eat as though this is the last meal of your life. Buon Appetito!
If you are focusing the majority of your energy in the moment, you will be less likely to lament over past disappointments or worry over future events that are out of your control. Being present or mindful can help you to see new perspectives, while developing compassion and forgiveness. It will help you to forge deep relationships, expanding your social network of support.
One of the easiest ways to stop your mind from wandering and worrying is to perform a simple breathing exercise. Close your eyes and picture the lungs within your chest. Take a deep in through your nose for 3 seconds and then exhale for 6 seconds through a pursed lip. Be sure to envision the air entering and exiting your lungs. Repeat this 5 times. This will focus your brain and lower the production of stress hormone. Perform this at work a handful of times throughout the day and see what happens to your mood. Research has shown that even meditating briefly can reap immediate benefits. Try it; it just might surprise you!
I’ve been a doctor for almost 28 years and I can assure you that the greatest threat to your health and happiness is not your circumstance but rather how you CHOOSE to interpret it. Stress is the meaning that you give to the events unfolding all around you. It can only exist only in your mind. Stick to the happy thoughts. Your health depends on it.
Dr. Peter Percuoco is a Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist and a Keynote Speaker. With 30 years of experience, Dr. Percuoco has stepped out of the clinic and onto the stage to share his message of hope and potential inspiring people to be the best that they can be.