Our world-wide stress levels have been on the rise for decades.
We know this to be true because –
- People are working longer hours
- There is more competition for jobs
- People are working around the globe and so there is always someone on your team who is awake
- Our phones are constantly pinging at us (either with work or some other notification)
- We are keeping ourselves chronically stressed by watching progressively more negative news and negative shows that rises our stress levels
We also know that more than 80% of US employees experience some sort of work-related stress. Drugs like Xanax which help with stress or sleep are on the rise, and people are turning to things like alcohol to also calm them down. With the stress levels rising and becoming chronic stress, the risk is that these chronic stress levels will lead to inflammation in the body. This inflammation can then lead to larger health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, weight gain / loss, chronic brain fog, diabetes, and many more health conditions.
With this being the case, you’d think that as a society, we’d be more open to talking about stress and anxiety, but it is still a taboo subject. If one is “stressed out”, the common thought is “you’ll get over it” or “go shake it off”, or “just take some time off”. The problem is that, when your body is stuck in the constant “flight” / RUN AWAY mode, or even worse, in “freeze” / I CAN’T DO ANYTHING mode, then these recommendations really won’t do anything.
Fear drives us, or at least, it drives our stress and anxiety
“Fear is a state of your nervous system. It is up to you to then devise to let it guide you or let it hold you back.”Kiki Bosch (freediver, breath teacher, healer)
When we are in place of fear, we cannot act rationally. Our brains switch off and go either into “fight / flight” mode or “freeze” mode. If you’d like to learn more about this – check out “polyvagal theory” by Stephen Porges.
Your body will not get out of this mode until it feels safe. We need to stop pretending that stress is a quick fix, or that stress/burn out is only something that’s felt by someone who is weak. In 2020, we need to come to terms that we are ALL STRESSED OUT and that we must finally accept that stress is a pandemic as big as COVID, and something we need to learn how to deal with. Otherwise, we run the risk of continuing to burn ourselves out and impacting the mental and physical health of future generations.
So, where do we get started? What is there really to do to put your body into a state of safety?
Below are three quick tips that can help remove you from the flight / freeze zone.
- Panoramic Vision
1. Breathe – In / In / Out
We have all heard of lah-maz style breathing – it’s the breathing that a pregnant woman will do to help destress and push the baby out. Breathe is one of the few bodily functions that you can control and, by controlling it, you can calm yourself down.
One breathe technique that the brilliant stress researcher neuroscientist, Dr. Andrew Huberman, recommends is –
- Inhale through the nose and pause at the top
- Inhale again — when you have reached the top, inhale a little more
- Exhale fully through the mouth
Simple. Do that 5 times and see how you feel. This technique can be done anywhere and doesn’t require a coach or a fancy degree.
If you want to read more – check out James Nestor’s latest book Breathe, or more of Dr. Huberman’s work on IG @hubermanlab.
2. Kava – the next CBD
This is known as Nature’s Xanax- because it binds to the same receptors – it’s a root that the chill island folks of Venuatu use to drink before they need to do anything stressful. It’s been a tremendous help for me during 2020, and you can use it during the day to give you chill focus or before sleep for some incredible dreams. Cameron, the founder of the company TruKava, actually cured himself from a benzodiazepine addiction because of this little potent little plant. It tastes a bit funny and can numb your tongue, which is why I’d recommend putting a dropper in your coffee in the morning for a focused but calm energy. You can get order it here (code “FEELGOOD” gets you a small discount).
3. Panoramic Vision
This is another incredible (free) tool from the lab of Dr. Andrew Huberman. This one is to soften your gaze and see things in more panoramic vision.
Today, more and more of us are focused on our laptops, cellphones, people’s faces. When we want to relax, we are still focusing on things. Our eyes tell our brains how to focus and what to feel. Focusing on things makes us laser sharp and does not allow our brains to just relax, and feel safe. So, if you are feeling stressed, soften your gaze. Try and see the corners of the room.
This will mimic the same thing your body naturally does when you are looking at a sunrise or overlooking a beautiful view. Your body naturally goes into this panoramic mode when it is at a point of stillness.
So, get out of “picture” mode and zoom out and put your eyes into panorama mode”; and see how the lack of focus, mixed with the kava, and the in-in-out breathe makes a difference.
Ways to Feel Good
We are fed up with stress and anxiety being seen as something that can only be cured by pharmaceutical drugs. There are things that we can incorporate into our daily lives to help lower the insane levels of our stress, and enjoy each day just a little bit more. So that instead of a dreaded “oh this day is going to be horrible” feeling, we have a day that feels good.
2020 is the year that we stop feeling bad for people who are burnt out and saying “oh, that must suck” – to realizing that we are all potentially in that situation. We are all potentially at our rope’s end given the amount of stress and pressure we have all faced this entire year. 2020 is the year to say “yes, I’m stressed” and “what tools are available to help me combat that so that I don’t go into full burn out mode?”