Last year, I began seeing a chiropractor because of constant pain in my neck and shoulder area. My first visit began with an interview and a few simple tests, such as a hand strength test. Another was an oxygen + CO2 level test, which involved taking deep breaths while my finger was inserted into a little slot (you know, those oxygen tester things with the red light).
I was asked to take the oxygen + CO2 test more than once because they weren’t sure if my reading was correct. After looking at the results again, he gently asked, “So, are you stressed at all?”
Wow, how did he figure that out by an oxygen + CO2 tester machine thingy?
With my kids sitting right behind me, I responded quietly with shrugged shoulders, “A little, I guess? Just mom stuff sometimes.”
After a visual examination, “From the looks of you, you seem very healthy.”
Thing is, my oxygen level was perfect – my CO2 level, not so much. Basically it’s a very simple test that shows if you’re exhaling/inhaling enough.
What did this simple oxygen/CO2 test tell me?
I wasn’t exhaling completely.
He told me to make sure that I’m exhaling completely. When I take a deep breath, I should make sure I inhale completely, but more importantly, that I release the entire breath. Holding it all in is a recipe for stress! In fact, deep breathing stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, which combats the fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system.
Wow! What a tattle-teller for my emotional health!
Yes, I’m generally healthy today – physically speaking, but what about the emotional side – you know, stress levels and anxiety? Well, I have to say that at that point in my life, I was experiencing lots of chest pains associated with anxiety. I was only going to the chiropractor to treat my neck and shoulders, and come to find out, I’ve noticed that I experience significantly more pain with stress! I also noticed that I tend to hold my breath when I’m in deep thought or stressed.
Stressed, you ask? How am I “stressed?” Sometimes, I stay in deep thought too long about negative things – people who irritate me, fears of what others think about me, things people have said about me that aren’t true, etc.
And then, there’s homeschooling, disciplining the kids all day, keeping up with the mounds of daily housework and daily life. Over time, I’ve learned to let many things take a back seat and deal with the urgent and important things first.
Now that I’m more in tune with my body, I do notice it right away, usually in the form of anxiety chest pains. Before, when I wasn’t as healthy, I wasn’t able to determine what could be causing me to feel that way because I had so many ailments at one time. I basically lived with a sore throat, anxiety, stomach aches, sinus pressure, headaches, pain between my shoulder blades, etc. Read The Story Behind Healthier Ingredients to find out what we did as a family to turn our health around.
But if I was only focusing on what the scripture tells us to think about, then maybe I wouldn’t have gotten so far down the path of negative thoughts in the first place, right?!
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. ~Philippians 4
A few months ago, I got an organic facial and massage at a local natural health facility (which was wonderful, by the way!), and the massage therapist asked about my family and such, to get to know me. I told her that I do deal with stress from time to time, and that’s when I notice most of my shoulder and neck pain. I told her that a lot of my stress has gone down since I’ve started homeschooling, but it still creeps up on me sometimes. She looked at me confused about that statement! She said that she thought homeschooling would add more stress. At times, yes, but for the most part, no. The reason is because my oldest would struggle in school, even though he is very smart. He really needed a more controlled environment in which to learn and get all his energy out. In my post Homeschooling Myths I Once Believed, I tell all about that.
I hear stories from way too many moms who are in the same boat that I was in years ago – always on the go, kids here, kids there, this event, that event, dinner at the drive-thru most nights of the week, no alone time with the hubby, much less alone time with their own self. And it only seems as though it’s getting worse. If this continues for too long, there’s a very high risk of disease associated. And it all comes from stress! But, don’t think that you don’t have control over those things.
But many times, we are not willing to do what it takes to get in control! The problem is, we know what to do, but we’re not doing it!
Don’t let life happen to you, let YOU happen to life!
I’ve seen so many testimonials of people who took months at a time to get away from their everyday life after they were diagnosed with cancer or some other chronic illness. For many, it was part of their healing process, and I believe it! Stress causes so much sickness, even more than nutrition and environmental factors. Check out this informative interview about how stress levels affect healing in your physical body.
The problem is, we don’t take enough time to breathe deeply on a daily basis. We put it off and put it off…
until it’s too late.
Then, we want to try to take some “vacation” in an attempt to relieve it all. News flash – it doesn’t all go away after ONE trip away from home! While there, one may feel a sense of relief to be away from the pressures of everyday life at home and work, but if our quality of life is compromised on a daily basis, stress quickly returns after being back home.
Of course, I strongly believe in a relaxing vacation at least once per year, but it doesn’t have to be all-out, if you know what I mean. Do it to relax, get away, and to focus on your family without the distractions of everyday life.
But don’t do it in hopes that all of your stress and everyday cares of life will go away forever. That’s not happening.
“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” ~ Seth Godin
I’ve heard the same people say all too often in a desperate tone, “Oh I neeeeeeeeed a vacation.” But, they’re saying it all the time. One day, I thought, “Wow, if I feel like I need a vacation every single week, something isn’t right with my life.” There are times when I’ve felt like that often, and that’s when it’s time to self-evaluate what may be going on in my life that I need to take control of! Remember, going on vacation won’t get rid of it!
The life we live now is far from perfect, but it’s much closer to joyful. I’m not totally stress-free, but definitely less-stressed. This is not a life that we just stumbled upon one day and thought, “Oh wow, we have somehow arrived at a place in our life where we enjoy every day.”
We “set up” this life by purposely putting God first, working hard to get out of debt, continually learning and educating, making an extra effort to eat fresh food every day, and taking time to breathe daily. It definitely wasn’t all us, spiritually speaking, but it’s important to take credit for our efforts, whether or not we think so. If that’s not the case, then nothing we do matters. God gets all the glory, but we also had to put forth the effort.
We came from a life of hustle and bustle, running around like a chicken, no direction, in debt for almost everything we owned, not very healthy, and not consistently making sure our decisions lined up with what God may have wanted for us. We based most our decisions on “feelings.” How many of you know that can get you into trouble eventually?
Children do what feels good. Adults devise a plan and follow it. ~Dave Ramsey
I did all the reading and educating that I could about every area of my life – money, kids, husband, career, etc. Finally, if I don’t know what God, our creator, says about me in the Bible, how do I know anything at all? Still to this day, I never stop learning and educating myself in those areas. It’s a daily thing. It’s when we humble ourselves and realize that we don’t know everything – that’s when we can learn and open our minds to endless possibilities! Sometimes, it’s just our perspective. How do we view everything around us?
We were blessed to be able to purchase a large piece of land on which we live, and I could walk outside at any point and breathe in the country. It’s a country-feel type of landscape (something we’ve always wanted) and we can feel at peace and one with nature at any point. Check out the post about our dream home here.
I can go swing on my front porch at any time I feel the need arise. But what’s the point of having this country land if I don’t use it for those things?! My point exactly! I definitely didn’t do that enough since we’ve lived here, so I’ve made a point to do that more often lately.
Take time to breathe.
Last month, we took a little mini-vacation to the beach. We stayed four nights in a condo on the beach, which was absolutely breathtaking – complete view of the sunrise on the beach horizon, the waves crashing into shore, and the simplicity and beauty of nature at our door every morning.
None of us wanted to leave – well, maybe Ernie did, only because he dislikes the sand clinging to every part of his body. Ha! I don’t even feel it! Give me allllll the sand! And alllll the beach!
I got to rest on the beach all day everyday, with the sand between my toes, and walk along the shore with just me and my baby girl while the boys dodged waves and became one with the ocean and their boards.
The whole purpose of this trip was relaxation, whether or not anyone knew that.
We’ve been on vacations where we needed another vacation once we got home! That, to me, is not the purpose of “vacation.” Especially when you have small children, the best thing is to find something that is enjoyable for everyone at any age. The beach was perfect! And since our condo was directly on the beach, we could walk back up to our room at any time if anyone needed a break. Of course, no one ever did!
We brought our slow-cooker and a slew of healthy snacks like trail mix, fruits, and veggies. We made sandwiches (with homemade mayo of course) for lunch and BBQ pulled-pork on buns for dinner. I just ate the pork without the bun, and my 3-year-old peeled her buns off and ate only the bread! On our way out on the last day, we always make plans to stop at Lambert’s for a huge meal and the best throwed rolls ever!
The kids had a blast, besides the continual use of baby butt paste after surfing all day! Sand and water rubbing between skin and clothing all day isn’t always nice to your body. I’ve never experienced that as a kid, even after being in the water all day. So, if you’re taking kids to the beach who like to play in the water all day, make sure you have butt paste and zinc oxide baby powder on hand, just in case!
It was really nice to get away, and it was long overdue for me. Did all my problems go away? Did all my stress go away?
No. But, in the days we were there on the beach, yes.
[A sign at a local beach shop.]
We must stop chasing an endless hope to completely rid ourselves of stress by indulging in the things of this world, no matter what it may be.
I truly believe that God commanded us to completely rest once per week because it’s so good for us to do so! You can read about the Sabbath throughout scripture as a command of God. There are also promises attached to it, to those who obey this command! (Isaiah 58)
I know it’s easier said than done, and I can attest to that. But, I must force myself to do it. I’m telling you that it is very necessary. Forcing myself sometimes means that I must force myself to wake up early so that I can spend time alone with God without distractions. I’m not a morning person by the way (and I do wish that I was!). We also must force our kids to go to bed early on a daily basis so that my husband and I can have alone time (plus, kids need sleep!). Do what you need to do to make sure that you can take some time out everyday in peace.
Quality of life is so important, but I’ve learned that it’s not something that happens on accident.
Breathe in completely. Breathe out completely. Repeat.
Take time to breathe everyday.