Amongst a lot of conversation on how to avoid, perceive and manage stress, one of the discussions that I believe gets neglected is–how to effectively recover from it.
From the numerous thoughts we have in a day, several contribute to stress, causing our insides to frequently experience the stress or alarm response. This leads to activation of the sympathetic nervous system, stress hormones, flight, fight or freeze reactions and many other consequences of stress. This is natural, normal and universal for all humans, given that this has been the secret to our survival. While we may be able to prevent some stress through perception management and cognitive work, some stress does stealthily manage to get its way through. In our fast-paced lives today, recurrent stress has become a part of our daily reality, thereby exposing us to chronic stress and its manifestations. On a daily basis, it is important for us to invest in stress detox or daily recovery to help our body, mind and soul stay healthy. There are four pillars that hold this recovery together.
The first step in the process is to be able to observe, feel and become aware that there has been some strain, stress or discomfort. For daily recovery, it is important that we develop an insight into our body-mind feedback that makes us aware that we have or are experiencing stress. Denial or being blind to this occurrence can cause neglect, compounding stress, and prevents the primary goal of daily recovery. For some, it may occur while experiencing a big challenge and for some, subtly as a passing thought or a memory; becoming insightful of the trigger which is oriented to the experience of the stress requires us to pay attention to our presence in the moment. When we experience a difficult emotion, an unwanted body sensation, or a behavioural consequence such as crying, shouting or overeating, we know we are stressed. However, some signs are far more subtle–an increased heart rate, a fleeting feeling of being lonely, a headache, or lethargy are all to be listened to carefully. Accepting and awakening to identification of stress and its consequences gives us the opportunity to register and begin the process of recovery.
Departure from stress on a daily basis must become a concrete goal to sustain good health. Whether from the trigger, contributor, cause or the very experience of it, we need to start sharpening our skills to be able to walk away from stress. Many of us experience stress and then leave ourselves in that state, fuming or forlorn for hours, allowing ourselves to absorb several negative consequences of long-term exposure. Having developed the skill of identification, we need to learn and strategise how to successfully leave stress and its consequences behind. Whether it is listening to your body, needing hydration or fresh air, your mind habitually thinking of something that causes a difficult emotion or a soul-stirring experience, letting go, allowing the experience to leave us, moving on into the new thought. Therefore, departing from stress is a conscious choice to be made in the interest of health and well-being.
Re-establishing homeostasis is important for health; achieving a balance in our body, emotions and cognition helps the recovery process. Restoring calm in the body through exercise, breathing, rest and sleep, and the mind through meditation, conscious cognition and optimism helps restore balance. By taking onus and guiding ourselves into this phase of recovery, using the body, mind and soul methods to achieve a former state of balance, reinstate functionality and renews health, helps rehabilitate and brings back energy and vitality on a daily basis. Achieving a relaxed state is an important stage that helps us assimilate what happened, take note of the cause and damage, and the steps that are required to be taken forward to recover from it.
“Keeping our buckets full as life continues to drain us” has been reiterated for years now. The understanding that we can refill and replenish our exhausted and stressed-out body, mind and soul doesn’t just imply hope, but responsibility too. Replenishing is valuable to the well-being of any living organism.
Sources of refilling resources are subjective. One may feel replenished by meeting friends and another by finding a day of solitude. Some may enjoy a strenuous trek in the mountains, while others may need a lazy day by the beach. The important thing is to be aware of what works for us; however, this is not enough. Another factor to keep in mind is that there needs to be a go-to list of practical things that effectively work in the time of need. While activities like taking holidays, travelling, meeting friends, signing up for an adventurous activity are truly relaxing and replenishing for some, they are difficult to opt for on a daily basis. The more we look outside for external resources, the further out of our reach it becomes. While we can retain those activities as the ultimate or bonus replenishers, we each need to have some practical, internal resources that we can keep ready for us to be able to turn to. Simple things like breathing, meditation, a dance or art activity, exercise, cooking, cleaning or reading do not depend upon season, time of the day or on the schedules of other people. Lastly, one prescriptive detail that I would like to add is to tell yourself when you are doing these activities that the goal is to replenish. Our mind likes concrete ideas, visuals and goals. The more the clarity in our daily goals to replenish, the easier it gets to champion ourselves at achieving it.