How To Harness The Power of Your Mind to Recover & Heal From Stress
We’ve all felt butterflies before a big presentation, or noticed our heart beating faster on those days when we have a lot going on. But how does stress impact us on a deeper level, over a long period of time? Sometimes, it’s tempting to just ignore that question and keep on grinding.
The good news is that, while stress can have detrimental effects to our physical selves, we can also harness the power of the mind to recover and heal ourselves.
The Dynamic Nature of Stress
In this clip from a Cup of Joy episode, Dr. Elizabeth Joy and Laine discuss the difficulty of quantifying the body-mind connection, and the complex ways in ways in which stress can affect us physically.
The Stress Response
The stress response, also known as the “fight or flight” response, is an emergency reaction within our bodies in response to some kind of perceived danger. Basically, our mind perceives a threat and our body responds in ways that were biologically and evolutionarily designed to keep us safe: increased heart rate, dilated pupils, sweating, etc.
But when it comes to the stress we experience in our day-to-day lives, these physiological responses don’t always seem so helpful. When you have an important presentation coming up, a nervous stomach or an increased need to use the bathroom may seem like a minor inconvenience at best.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a magic cure that will turn off your body’s fight or flight response; in fact, you wouldn’t actually want that. Learning to understand and deepen the connection between your body and your mind can mitigate and even support you in recovering from the physical and mental effects of long-term stress.
What Does Long-Term Stress Look Like?
When we experience a high level of stress for long periods of time (think longer than just a month or two), our bodies can become so used to operating in “fight or flight mode” that our physical and psychological selves begin to suffer. For people living in poverty or abusive homes, for example, there is often a constant state of alertness and a lack of true physical rest. Experiencing chronic stress can cause a variety of problems including muscle pain, high blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, a weakened immune system, and other chronic diseases.
The problem is that we can’t predict the ways in which chronic stress will affect us. Many high-achieving executives and BlueChips don’t realize that a lifetime of intense career stress is a contributing factor to a diagnosis later on. Operating in the midst of stress every day can feel unavoidable, whether it’s career-related or due to personal life circumstances.
Rest assured, we are not advocating that you remove yourself from all sources of stress. That would be impossible! We know that for professionals, leaders, and business owners, stress is a necessary part of the journey to success. In lieu of selling your business and moving to a cabin in the woods, here are some tips to help you mitigate the negative physical effects of chronic stress.
Seasons of the Grind, Seasons of Recovery
You have big goals and achieving those goals require years and years of hard work. But true success is not achieved through “the grind” alone. Learning how to discern which seasons of your life truly require a full-on hustle and which seasons require you to check down is essential.
Let’s say you’re a small business owner. Leading up to the initial launch of your business, you inevitably experienced increasing amounts of stress — the technology kept glitching, your income stream changed, your business plan had to be reworked over and over and over. You probably didn’t sleep as much as you would have liked to. You were forced to eat fast food more frequently because you just didn’t have time to go grocery shopping. After the launch, there were countless other issues to solve, employees to hire, and new products to design. You’re a year in and things have calmed down a little. But you’re already looking to the next thing. You want to keep growing your business. Your stress levels maybe went down a little, but you’re still on the grind. If you keep this up, will you be well enough to run your business two years from now? Will you be well enough to reap the benefits of your successful business?
What if instead of immediately looking for the next opportunity as soon as things stabilize in your business, you planned an intentional recovery period? What if you gave yourself permission to not start a new project the second your last one ends or slightly calms down?
Our bodies are extremely resilient. But they can only be resilient if they are given time to truly recover. We are not advocating that you drop everything, sell your business, quit your job, and run away. Periods of recovery can look different for everyone; maintaining a normal workload while taking a break from extra projects and side hustles can sometimes be enough to allow some physical recovery to take place.
It’s about knowing when to check in, and knowing when to check down.
Deepening the mind-body connection can help you cope with stress more effectively, and even support you in recovering from long-term stress.
Effective mind-body practices involve mindfulness and being present in the moment. In that sense, there are endless unique ways to explore your own mind-body connection. Listening to music, dancing, creating art, journaling, meditating, doing yoga, walking, hiking, and being in nature are all ways in which the mind-body connection can be deepened.
Integrating some of these practices into your life takes intention and time. But the payoff is enormous: your body, your mind, and your business will thank you later!