We made it to the New Year!
From November 20th through January 24th, there are at least 14 different religious holidays, not to mention New Year’s Eve and other secular gatherings (gobble gobble). During this time, women are predominantly responsible for the gift shopping and wrapping, entertaining, and coordinating gatherings. Then, before we know it, January 2nd roles around. We’ve been functioning on autopilot and thriving on adrenaline. Taking down decorations can be depressing and more stressful than all of the previous months’ events combined.
To break the cycle, we need to understand the cycle.
Physical injuries, starvation, chronic physical challenges, and psychological / social disruptions are the three categories of ways to get upset. Our bodies are adapted for dealing with short-term physical emergencies and stress is about short-term crisis. Because people have the mental capacity to anticipate and worry about stressful things, our physiological stress-responses are chronically engaged, accumulating over time, which can potentially lead to fatigue, myopathy, immune system suppression, and an imbalance of bad/good cholesterol leading to cardiovascular disease. Even though men have higher rates of heart attacks, heart disease leading to death is more prevalent in women (Sapolosky, 2004).
Stress perpetuates stress.
Let’s couple the above with the non-ending, vicious cycle of how stress disrupts sleep and then how sleep deprivation becomes a stressor. The basics of sleep are described as shallow (stages 1 and 2) and deep (stages 3 and 4, referred to as “slow wave sleep” where REM happens). The brain works differently during the different stages, either slowing down to assimilate information or speeding up metabolic processes to replenish energy. A function of sleep that is of key importance: dreaming aids in our cognitive abilities while we are awake. Sleeping is not only about the total hours we get every night, but also that those hours are uninterrupted, enhancing the quality of sleep (Sapolosky, 2004).
Regain your power over stress!.
The spiritual body is ruled by the fire element and the spirit of Mother Earth. The practice of meditating creates space between our thoughts so we can hear our own inner voice. Light a candle as an expression of your intention to honor yourself and the fire element. Stare at the flame for one minute, setting a clock to maintain focus on the flame. Count how many negative thoughts you have in one minute. Feel how many times you want to move away from being still and silent. Sense how many distractions you had in one minute that diverted your focus off the flame.
The mental body is ruled by the air element. The wind is the breath of Mother Earth. Steady gazing is an excellent concentration exercise. Place an object, a leaf or pinecone from a tree where you last heard the wind pass through the branches, at eye level, three feet away from you. Concentrate on the sound of the air entering and exiting your lungs, spending a few moments doing this until your breathing settles into a deep, slow rhythm. Start gazing at the object without blinking, steady and unstrained. After a minute, close your eyes, maintaining your inner gaze steady, visualizing the object. When the after-image vanishes, open your eyes and repeat the process.
The emotional body is ruled by the water element. Water is the blood of Mother Earth. The emotional body is a filter. Even in the darkest emotions there is light and awareness. Taking time to reflect is a necessary daily practice to get rid of stress. Creating time for reflection and stillness provides an outlet for worries and pent-up feelings that create stress in our emotional body.
The physical body is ruled by the earth element, the body of Mother Nature. Exercise is the universal key for achieving better health and reducing the effects of stress. Giving ourselves the time and space to exercise has deep and lasting benefits. Ease into a routine of any physical activity sustained for thirty minutes that deepens our breathing, quickens our heart rate, and makes us sweat will create release and relief.
Wear the healthy, be the healthy, you are the healthy!
Goddess Up! You can’t have women’s empowerment without women’s HEALTH! . – Sierra Bender
Sapolosky, R.M. (2004). Why zebras don’t get ulcers: The acclaimed guide to stress, stress-related disease, and coping(3rd ed.). St. Martin’s Griffith. New York.