The Stress Epidemic
How many of the following feelings or thoughts are familiar to you?
There aren’t enough hours in the day
I have an overwhelming sense of anxiety
I have too many things to do, I don’t know where to start
I can’t carve out any time for myself
I don’t know how other people do it (and make it look easy!)
Probably a few of these thoughts rang true for your personal experience, maybe right now in your life, or at some stage in the past. That is because these are extremely common thought patterns to have in the modern world that we live in today. We as a community have a ‘stress epidemic’ on our hands and the trend is only growing worse. The financial, family and social demands of our life compete for our time and pull us in all directions until we are at breaking point.
Before we go on, let’s hone in on the meaning of stress for a moment. Lovas (2001) defines it as:
“[an experience arising] when a demand on an individual exceeds their perception of their coping mechanisms and results in the interruption of homeostasis”.
In layman’s terms, when the pressures of life surpass our perceived ability to cope with those demands, our bodily processes become unbalanced. This, we all know to be true from first-hand experience. The important thing to note here is that the threshold for suffering from stress can differ between individuals. Taking it further, stress can be divided in to two categories; distress (negative emotion forming) and eustress (positive emotion forming). Distress we are all familiar with as it has a negative effect on our emotions and our overall productivity as we shut down in response. Eustress is positive in nature and stimulates us while helping to meet deadlines. Chronic high levels of stress (either distress or eustress) is damaging to our body as it depletes biological resources. This can manifest as poor immune system function, digestive system ailments and mental disorders such as the all too common depression and anxiety.
You are probably familiar with most or all of the points I have described above. So what is the answer to this issue? Your boss is riding you at work, and when you get home the kids are screaming at you or each other, and the weekend rolls around (historically a time for recharge and rejuvenation) and you have enough social engagements on the calendar to rival the Royal Family. It is so important for each one of us to have time for ourselves; time sheltered from the demands of the outside world where we can focus on our own well-being. Yoga combines a number of elements that are proven by research (some of it my own) to help with improved well-being and stress reduction. Those are:
Physical activity or movement
The research out there supports yoga as an effective therapy for:
Psychological effects (improved mood, decreased anxiety and stress)
Now, I know how hard it can be to carve out time in the busy schedule and certainly nobody is perfect. You may think you are helping others by devoting all of your time to assist them, but the root of your actions is driven by how highly you value your own well-being. Remember the following from Eleanor Brown:
“Self-care is not selfish. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.”
 2001Lovas J. Relaxation: The Learned Response. In McCabe P. (Ed.), Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery. Melbourne: Ausmed Publications