Do you struggle with moments of stress and anxiety? Let me rephrase that. Are a human being? Of course you deal with stress and anxiety. Granted, some of us have better coping skills, genetics, and emotional hygene that naturally help us to alleviate the damaging effects of stress. There are just some people who are cucumbers; just cool. They go with the flow, survive by adaptation, and quickly rise above the stress modalities. Admittedly, I am not one of those. This comment is not science backed, but I often wonder if part of my struggle is hereditary. I have excess worriers in my family. Added to that is lifestyle and career that is chock full of stress. I am a pastor and church planter. I have my personal struggles that I deal with plus the struggles of a congregation. I admit to you that I’ve always had a proclivity to gravitate toward anxiety. It’s something I have to keep in serious check. In 2011, I hit the wall. I burned the candle at both ends. I fried my hard drive. Use whatever metaphore is available…I was a wreck. Stress and anxiety nearly took my ministry, my family, and my life. I’ve spent years since then developing better, personal techniques for dealing with these tenencies.
I still struggle, though now I am able to more quickly identify, assess, and impliment healthy bio-hacks that have helped me navigate and stay healthy. Now, before I get into these techniques, understand that I am a Christian. I follow the teaching of the Bible and am grounded in them for daily practice, diciplines, and faith. As a part of my faith, I regard as truth “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You.” (Isaiah 26:3) There is nothing more saving than my meditation and relationship with God through Jesus Christ and this has proven itself over and over. Some of what I’m gong to mention may seem a bit unorthodox, yet I believe God has given us an array of faculties to use as a way to operate in optimal health. Though I do not use pharmacueticals for stress relief, I do not demonize their use.
- I listen to my body. When stress arizes, it triggers physiological signals. Sometimes I don’t even know I am stressed if not for these physical signals. I’ve become in-tune with these signals enough to be able to stop any detrimental effects before they get started. My breathing will become short and shallow. I can feel my body tempurature spike rather quickly and my cortizol levels rise. Adrenaline, epinephrine, and norepinepgrine begin surging through my blood stream. My blood vessels constrict and my skin tingles around my neck, face and ears.
- My immediate step begins with a change in breathing. I stop what I’m doing and begin some deep diaphragmatic breathing or some box breathing; doing nothing but concentrting on each breath in and each breath out. I do this for several minutes.
- I have a mantra that i repeat to myself. No, not the eastern philisphical type of mantra. The Bible says “the truth will set you free.” As I begin to relax my body, my mind relaxes on this thought, “All in my world is good.” How can this be true? Just within the past couple weeks, much has happened that has deeply stressed me out. Because, this world is not MY world. I belong to a kingdom, the Kingdom of God. That is where my true citizenship lies. In THAT world, God’s will reigns supreme and for that fact alone, all is good. Even everything that happens that stresses me out, though it may be damaging to this temporal world or MY fleshly will, it is working perfectly in God’s planning and providence.
- I get get out of breath. A little run or some exercise does more than the body good. It will flush those stress hormones, utilizing them, instead of allowing them to continue to circulate. Also, exercise increases dopamine and seratonin in the brain. We runners call that the “runners high.” these are the opposite of stress hormones.
- I tap into herbal alternatives and nootropics. Theres an array of natural stress reducers on the market and much reearch and education in this area is deserving. Ashwaganda is a fantastic adrenal builder. Gabba is a neurotransmitter with a soothing, calming effects. So is L-theanine, and 5-HTP.
- This one is a really weird one but studies have shown the benefits, but I use what’s called “frequency therapy” to promote calming brain activity. It’s called binural beats and is really cool. We know that our cognition works differently with sets or measures of different brain waves. Our excititory nervous response to different stimuli have an effect on our learning, creativity, restfulness, or calming. Ideally, when it comes to reducing our brain’s stress signals we would opt for the “Theta” brain wave..as opposed to somethimg like “alpha” which could result in higher stress or impulsive decision making which is bad during times of high hightend stress. So, I use my ear buds and a free app called “brain waves” and it emits 2 seperate whole tone frequencies into each ear, resulting in my brain harmonizing with the resulting “binural” frequency, in this case the “theta” frequency. Think of a piano being harmonized to a tuning fork. This puts my brain into de-stress mode rather quickly.
Stress and axiety are common place and vastly responsible for a myriad of diseases and life threatening health issues. I’ve stressed my body to the point of depleting my adrenal glands and twisting my lumbar spine into acute scoliosis. Even worse was the depression and suicidal thoughts. Stress and anxiety are nothing to ignore and hide. Perhaps one of the greatest practices for stress relief is talking it out with a friend. “As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another.” (Proverbs 27:17) Listen to your body and let someone else listen to you. Above all, I hope you know that God’s ear is always attentive and his presence always comforting. Consider some of these practices the next time you feel a stressful situation effecting you negatively. It actually may be your answer for turning it around into something positve and efficatious to your life.