I was contemplating stress this morning as I lay in bed. I had hoped for 8 hours of sleep, but at about 7 hours, I woke up and was having a hard time going back to sleep. Usually, if I lay still long enough, I will eventually fall asleep.
There were so many things going through my head... Things I need to do, things I need to remember.. As the lists kept playing out in my mind, I finally consciously stopped. I didn't want to feel stressed.
You see, I've been making a conscious decision on being aware of what causes stress and how to combat it.
The wonderful thing about being with Sterling is that he is very clear on what health is. There is no compromising on living healthily for him. We often have heated
Case in point: If I have a lot of things left to do at the end of the night, whether it be for work or other extracurricular activity I'm involved in - it could be dance, sanshin, yoga, koto, family-related stuff - I can easily sacrifice sleep for it.
For Sterling, sleep is a guarded commodity. Sleep is what replenishes the body, all of our internal systems able to reset and re-energize. Without sleep, our body is robbed and deprived of precious rest that is both mental and physical. In the end, without sleep, our stress level will most likely remain high (thanks to cortisol, a stress hormone that rises with lack of sleep). Even if the "task" at hand that remained undone was finished, the pay-off may be immediate, but the long-term trade-off would actually be more harmful.
I've argued (or he'd say it was make excuses) that this is how people live their lives today. We have things that need to be done and there is simply not enough time in the day and so we push ourselves to get things done, both professionally and personally because the consequences of not "pushing" is less desirable.
The problem is, he argues back, the deterioration of a person's health is not always immediately seen. So while we are making withdrawals on our body's energy and resources, we think we're okay because we don't see the overdraft that's taking place. We also delude ourselves into thinking that these choices on how we live our lives are "what everybody does"; therefore, it's justified and okay to live this way.
However, as we get older, the constant dwindling of our bodies ability to replenish and remain strong will take a heavy toll. On some level, everybody realizes this as diseases that are linked to our lifestyle (diabetes, heart disease to name a few) are on the rise. Our bodies are not meant to be lived this way.
And so, slowly I've been making the changes. First, there were really small steps. I stopped drinking coffee and switched to teas. I stopped wearing heels and now wear mostly flats. I stretch more often and I consciously try to get more sleep, though this is the challenging one at times.
This morning, as I began to feel annoyed that I could not quiet my mind, Sterling woke up and we talked about stress management and health. And we realized that it's been quite awhile since I've ground my teeth while sleeping.
I've been grinding my teeth in my sleep (bruxism) for as long as I can remember. I know I was doing it in college, and until a few months ago, I was still doing it. I'm convinced that this is stress-related. And when we figured that, at the moment, I've stopped doing so that must mean that I've begun to really de-stress. That is, I'm not storing and suppressing my feelings of stress AND I've begun to release what was buried. This brought me much happiness and a sense of feeling that I'm really on the right track.
Another thing I've noticed is that I've avoided major colds/flus this past year (knock on wood). Lately, I'll feel like I'm kind of battling something, but not really succumb to it. In the past, I have felt like I will catch anything anybody has and then I would stay sick for an extended period. I feel I've strengthened my immune system over the past few months.
What I want to work on next is that even in high stress moments (major event planning or project deadline looming--including any recitals scheduled for March 19, ha!) -- I can handle the stress and even combat its effects by calming and meditating and just consciously making space to relax. This morning was one of those moments of realizing that I was letting the list of "must-dos" just run amok, and I had to reign in the feeling of overwhelm and busy-ness.
Hence my comment a few posts back about sacrificing sleep to get these blog posts done. I don't like that it may delay my bedtime, but I'm hoping that the drive to not cut into sleeptime will find ways to follow-through on disciplining myself, especially to create good habits and to be productive.
There is much more to say on the topic of how to handle stress and about how to truly live a life of all-around HEALTH. I look forward to exploring that more as I make strides in my own life.