Everyone experiences stress in their lives, but not everyone is able to come out of stress, so what are the 3 pillars to Cure Chronic Stress?
Social Connection, Delight, and Gratitude.
Simple enough, right?
Just because something is simple, doesn't mean it's easy.
Forming social connections, finding delight in activities, and truly feeling grateful present unique challenges to every person, but the reward is life-changing.
Before we dive into the 3 Pillars to Cure Chronic Stress, it's important to know how stress affects the body.
A couple of things to know right off the bat:
1) Stress is generic, it does not discriminate between physical stress and emotional stress
2) Stress is essential for human growth and development- from muscle and heart health to learning and mental toughness.
But if stress is essential then why does Chronic Stress result in heart failure, insomnia, body pains, hormone dysregulation and so much more?
Because Stress and Chronic Stress are not the same things.
Chronic Stress is the inability to turn the acetylcholine and epinephrine switch OFF resulting in your body being constantly flooded with high intensity and alertness neurochemicals.
When you can't turn that switch OFF, there are other functions of the body that can't turn ON and that combination leads to all the varying physiological problems.
So, how do the 3 Pillars Cure Chronic Stress?
Arguably the most important factor in how to Cure Chronic Stress is having positive social connections.
This includes not only friends and family but also animals, pets, and even objects!
NOTE: Social Connection is not the same as Social Media.
In fact, studies show a significant correlation between time spent on social Social Media and increased feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Social Connection is about the experience of positive emotion associated with something outside of yourself.
When you see your best friend for coffee, when your dog runs up to greet you at home, or your cat starts purring on your lap, that's the feeling that you're trying to connect with.
Objects too, do you have a favorite book, painting, or piece of jewelry?
Maybe a photograph from a road trip or even a favorite T-shirt.
Your house is probably full of things that used to make you feel connected, positive, and even happy, but over time have just become another fixture of your home.
Now is the time to reconnect to those things!
Really take a lot at that picture you walk by every day; dig up that old T-shirt and put it on for no one but yourself.
Remember why you loved those things in the first place.
That positive feeling is the result of serotonin which is released every time we interact with the people we love, the pets we adore, and the objects that we cherish.
If Social Connection is the noun (the persons, places, and things), then Delight is the verb, it's the action part of the interaction.
Think back to when you were a kid and you got to see your best friend.
Did the two of you just sit and stare at each other then go back home?
I'm guessing not.
And that is the key feature of Delight, finding ways of re-establishing play as a regular part of your life.
Doing something that brings you joy, laughter, and engagement.
If step 1 is reconnecting to the people and things you enjoy, then step 2 is how you reconnect with those people and things.
As we grow older we are less inclined to invent silly games with ridiculous rules, but there are plenty of ways to play that are more "grown-up," it just takes a little effort and creativity.
Much like Social Connection, what makes Delight effective is the emotion you are able to evoke.
That's the major theme that underlies the effectiveness of all 3 Pillars to Cure Chronic Stress as you'll continue to see with the last pillar, Gratitude.
Gratitude is often an elusive feeling to evoke.
Many people prescribe gratitude journaling, creating lists of things you're thankful for, even writing letters to yourself or others- and these are all great, but they rarely evoke the powerful feeling of being truly grateful.
This is because the process quickly becomes a memory game of reciting what you "should" feel grateful for, as opposed to genuine emotional appreciation.
So, how can you change that?
One strategy is to think back to the last time you really felt grateful- maybe it was finding out your family member survived a terrible accident, or when you were desperate for help and a stranger came to your aid.
Think, remember what that moment was like, remember how you felt in that instant, and let it pour over you.
Another proven strategy is to listen to stories of gratitude told by others.
Hearing the emotion in someone else's voice as they describe being truly grateful triggers a sympathetic response in our own minds as if we are experiencing the same level of gratitude.
Just like the previous two pillars, gratitude is only effective if you can access the emotional content, if you can experience the feeling behind the thought.
This can be challenging, but the good news is that you don't even have to do this every day.
Practicing Gratitude in this way requires as little as 3-5 minutes a week! Optimally, this looks like a couple of minutes every 2 to 3 days.
That's all it takes.
Chronic Stress is the inability to get your body out of a state of adrenaline-fueled tension.
The 3 Pillars to Cure Chronic Stress are Social Connection, Delight, and Gratitude.
Each of these pillars only works if you are able to evoke the emotion that lies under the surface.
This can be done by being mindful of the people you love, attentive to the things that bring you joy, and conscious of what you are truly grateful for.
It's as simple as that, but that doesn't make it easy.
Each of these pillars requires effort, focus, and patience, but will inevitably lead to a life of fulfillment, appreciation, and most of all, the ability to end Chronic Stress.
Andrew Huberman, PhD, Standford School of Medicine
National Library of Medicine
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