I went to a new doctor yesterday. This doctor is an MD, but focuses on alternative medicine in his practice. For someone who has had almost no experience with alternative medicine — and frankly, who thinks of herself as too left-brained for it — I was a bit hesitant before I went. But what he said and how he said it made so much sense to me that I couldn’t find anything to argue about.
The appointment was just a regular checkup, but the doctor quickly zeroed in on my stress level. It’s high. Well, that’s a lie, it’s HIGH. And while I know that a consistently high stress level can have negative — and serious — health consequences I’ve chosen to be in the mindset of “It won’t be like this forever so I’ll just push through.” But as the doctor asked me some questions I realized that this might be a really stupid idea and that some of the consequences might already be here.
He asked about my energy level, which I quickly answered was great, I am always hyper energetic. He said “OK, but if you stop what you’re doing and just sit down on the couch, how do you feel?” I had to be honest and say that I’d feel extremely tired, exhausted. Do I get sick more often than I used to? Yes, actually, and it’s taking me longer to get better. Trouble sleeping? Yes. Random low blood pressure? Yes. Add to that a whole bunch of other indicators and the verdict isn’t tough to guess: This level of stress is already not something my body is handling well.
And (here’s the dreaded how-do-I-do-this part….
I need to find a way to be less nuts. (I am paraphrasing, of course, but the essence is the same–slow down or else. And the “else” is not pretty.)
I wasn’t surprised with what I heard but I was honest in my confusion about what to do. I went on a 5-minute emphatic tirade, telling the doctor about this great company that I am building, the new career that I started as an entrepreneur, how it is completely and utterly impossible for me to slow down as the main family breadwinner, as the company’s CEO, as a mom, wife, daughter…. The whole notion of work-life balance was on trial here - how can a crazy-busy working mom slow down?
“I want you to start by breathing”, he said.
I got so happy–all I had to do was breathe! But he didn’t just mean take regular breaths.
“For every hour that you work I want you to spend 2-3 minutes taking very deep breaths, without expanding your chest, and then exhale deep into your stomach. Eyes closed, no music, no computer. And if you skip an hour, you have to do a double doze the next hour.”
Being an annoying must-know-all that I am I asked a ton of questions about why breathing makes such a difference. Apparently it does and it’s not just in your head–there are some fancy medical sounding reasons for taking time to breathe deeply and doing it frequently (words like adrenal glands came up often in the explanation) .
I am going to start tomorrow and give it a try. I am sure I will fail miserably at being consistent but I am going to try and get better. I know this is not the whole solution, and frankly, I am skeptical about my ability to slow down. But I am considering this as a small but important step for reducing the stress in my life and I am writing about it here because I hope you’ll consider doing it with me. (If you are already meditating daily, you rock!)
What things do you to reduce stress and stay healthy? Do you breathe, meditate, do yoga, go walking, stand on your heads, run around singing 80s pop? Share your tips in the comments and maybe we can all learn something from each other!