body

Stress and the Body

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Have you ever noticed that your body aches, you’re more irritable than usual, or that you’re unusually tired? Maybe it’s a combination of all three. The “new” symptoms seem to be coming from nowhere, without any reason. You didn’t exert yourself particularly hard during your last workout, you’re getting a solid 6.5 hours of sleep, and work is going smoothly. So then, why are you experiencing them?

If you’re like me, you may recognize stress after your body is aware of it. If you’re like me, your body tries to warn you that you need to take care of yourself. If you’re like me, you push through it thinking that it’s nothing, until you’re forced to stop because your body refuses to go any further.

April is stress awareness month. Although I may know that I should be more mindful of my stress levels, I constantly find myself fighting the reality that I have a smaller capacity than I used to. For the past two years I have been battling an undiagnosed chronic illness that is accompanied with chronic fatigue and chronic pain. As such, I am more sensitive than ever to my new stress levels.

During my teens and early 20s, I thought I was invincible; I took on more projects and sleepless nights than was necessary. But now, nearly a decade later, I’m finding that my new limits and boundaries my body places on me, forces me to slow down. I can’t say that I have fully adjusted. Often times, I find myself running at the same pace I used to. But as a result, my body reminds me, with aches and pains, that I can’t sprint through life any longer.

The tension between sprinting and pausing in life is a real one I struggle with daily. I grapple with the reality that I need rest – I need physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social rest. There doesn’t seem to be a sweet spot between the two extremes, at least not one that I have found yet. It’s a new challenge that takes time to discover, try, fail, and progress.

With the change of seasons, we often associate spring with new beginnings and new hope. Having a fresh start to try once again, I’m told to slow down, rest, and take care of my body. With the start of spring, I want to challenge myself with looking at stress differently. Stress, and my body’s reaction to it, is a good thing. It’s a physical reminder of the limitations I face. And that’s okay. I’m human. I am finite and this reality puts the value of life into perspective. Despite the challenges I face, there is still a chance at having hope. There is a chance of finding rest. There is a chance at being healthy and having a healthy relationship with stress.

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I realize that you may not experience stress the same way I do. But how many times do you wake up during the week wishing you had a little more energy, a little more quiet time, or a little more rest? Battling stress and pursuing a healthy life does not have to be hard. I want to challenge myself and you with the idea that progress doesn’t always have to be drastic. No, progress also includes the small pauses and increases in awareness of self. Allowing grace in our lives for the reality that we are limited is one of the kindest postures we can have towards ourselves.

So, how can you pause today? What is your body telling you that it needs? What is your soul needing today? What’s one small adjustment to your schedule that would help you find rest? Let’s talk more about the practical steps after reflecting on our current state and stress practices. 

About the Author:

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Alex Song, RP, Apprentice, is pursuing an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Denver Seminary. Alex is passionate about helping people become their most authentic and true selves. She loves helping people navigate their life pursuits, identity formation, and career aspirations. She feels honored to walk alongside clients as they share their story with her, inviting her into that sacred space. She desires her clients to live life purposefully and well through evaluating their physical, spiritual, mental, social, and emotional health. As clients navigate meaning making, she works with clients to equip them with the tools to live their best life. Alex desires to connect with the Asian population to help them advocate for their voices as they pursue what wellness looks like. Alex is a Colorado native and enjoys exploring new coffee spots, watching movies, and catching up with friends.