Stress: Stop Fighting

by Ideal Nourishment Coach, Lily Calfee

What poison we allow into our bodies every day?  The answer is simple: stress. In our society stress seems like part of our lives, there is no way to avoid it. There are many different kinds of stress, some of which are avoidable. Some stress we recognize, like anxiety about finances, perfectionism around our work, or relationship troubles. Stressors like food allergies, loneliness, or chronic caffeine intake can go unrecognized, and cause more trouble over time. Let’s minimize the effect these have on your life.

Having a disease that is described as “incurable” can be a huge stress in and of itself. Instead of fighting it, develop a symbiotic relationship with your body. Take good care of your body and ask it to take good care of you. Before you go to sleep, ask your body to heal, and thank it for everything it has done that day.

Let’s talk about three ways to minimize your reaction to stress. Our first line of defense is quality sleep. Do you wake up feeling rested? Eight hours of sleep is highly recommended, but many people have trouble falling or staying asleep. To reset your sleep schedule, go to sleep in the evening when you feel tired, and wake up at the same time every morning. Whether it is 6 PM or 2 AM, this trick will help your body realign to it’s natural schedule. After a few days you will start getting sleepy around the same time every night. Getting fifteen to twenty minutes of midday sun will help you sleep better, as will daily exercise. 

Exercise is also a great way to keep stress from ruining you day. Explore yoga classes and walking, or whatever your body is asking for. I recommend a book called Yoga for Wellness by Gary Kraftsow, pages 281-285 are especially for MS. Strike a balance between effort and ease. After appropriate exercise, you should feel tired but good. 

The final pieces are breathing and meditation. In yoga, breathing practices are called pranayama, which is loosely translated as “the extension of the life force.” Practice extending your life force daily with this exercise.

Draw in a big breath, and then exhale, drawing your belly back towards your spine. Push all the air out, all the way up to your throat. Take a big deep breath; all the way up your lungs, take little sips of breath until you are full. Exhale, all the way out, until your lungs feel flat and you are totally empty. Practice this two or three times, and then return to normal breathing and notice what changes in your body. 

Pranayama can be done on it’s own, any time when you are sitting still. If you choose, follow the breathing exercise with ten minutes of meditation, by sitting still and emptying the mind. I find this most useful if done first thing in the morning and before bed, but experiment with what works for you. I also recommend researching EFT for MS symptoms. There are lots of videos on YouTube to walk you through it. 

Which of these habits sound attractive to you? There are many ways to heal, so choose the practices that you are drawn to and start incorporating them into your life today. Which suggestions sound more difficult? Connect on the message board, and get support to make the small steps that will transform your life. Get in touch with Maura Youle at jmyoule@msn.com for support around physical activity and it’s effects on MS.

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Lily Calfee

Lily Calfee attended school at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where she was trained in more than one hundred dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods, and is a member of the International Association of Health Coaches. She is particularly interested in Ayurvedic Medicine, women’s health, and the connection between food and mood. Lily offers tips and insights about creating a completely personalized diet that suits your unique body, lifestyle, preferences, and goals. She lives in Boulder, Colorado.