It’s a common theme these days: stress. Not the good type of stress that gets us excited or motivated to take action, but the chronic debilitating stress that leads to all types of problems, especially if the signs of this stress are ignored or not dealt with constructively, and it’s allowed to continue for days, weeks, months, or even years.
There’s only so much a body can take, and that chronic stress can lead to all types of medical conditions and even serious diseases, or to mental and emotional issues like strained relationships or even depression.
It can lead to people using unhealthy coping mechanisms like smoking, overdrinking (alcohol), overeating, watching too much TV, etc., a temporary relief that only makes the problem worse.
Our bodies and minds have a way of warning us, and we have to become more in tune and aware in order to take positive action to prevent serious injury or harm.
As an example, in the past I had a few years of severe back pain that I’m convinced was entirely due to being overstressed. It started off slow, a twinge every now and then, and some achiness on occasion. One day, my back “went out”, it went into a spasm – I collapsed to the ground to try to alleviate the pain and lay there motionless praying it would stop. I went to numerous chiropractors and even a back surgeon who told me I’d never get better (I was 26 years old at the time). This continued for a few years with one or two spasms per year and no real resolution.
For those who haven’t experienced a back spasm, picture your lower back like a tight elastic band getting tighter and tighter, and hurting, and then that elastic band being cut and unable to hold you up in a standing position anymore. It would terrify me because I knew inevitably what would happen next and felt powerless to stop it. The spasm would make me drop to the ground and lay there for hours, motionless, for hours or sometimes a day or two, until I could move without screaming in pain.
I’m not sure what was worse, the take-your-breath-away pain, or the fear of that pain knowing that any slight movement could trigger it. After the first couple of spasms, I was provided some pretty strong meds to take for the spasm and pain, which would make me sleep. It seemed to shorten the healing time it took to get on my feet again, but didn’t address the underlying cause.
The last time my back went out (spasm), I was at a party. I was uncomfortable and my back was tight that day, but not any more than usual. I was just standing around the kitchen table, and felt my back muscle stretching and then pop, spasm. I couldn’t move. The pain was excruciating, and kept getting worse, to the point that I had to drop to my knees and lay on the floor until and an ambulance came, and I was taken to the ER, given a powerful pain killer that took most of the pain away, allowing me to walk out of there and eventually get home.
So what changed – how come my back hasn’t gone out again in the past 20 years? Well, I started paying attention to what my body was telling me instead of ignoring it.
If I overused my back one day and could feel some slight tightness occurring, I would take a positive action to address it before it got worse. For me, I would put arnica gel on it and take it easy for the rest of the day, get a good night’s sleep, and take it easy the next day.
So I wouldn’t end up in the ER again, I used the power of a morning ritual to ensure I was tuning in to how my body felt, every day. And that’s one of the two things I recommend to my clients to be able to reduce their stress and feel better on a consistent basis. Here’s more detail on that:
Commit to a morning ritual.
There are so many benefits to having a morning ritual. Just the self-discipline to wake up early and plan for it helps you mentally and provides confidence and a sense of pride when you stick to it.
The ritual itself helps you focus on what’s important, manage stress, and is the best way to start your day.
Morning rituals can include one or a few of the following: meditation, prayer, journaling, self-Reiki/energy work, listening to a guided meditation or to uplifting music, visualization, reading from the bible or some other inspiration book, stretching in bed and thinking of 3 things you’re grateful for, going for a walk outside and noticing birds singing, the wind, the warmth of sun, the clouds, etc.
Some people do focused breathing, power breathing, yoga, or some other exercise or physical activity. Drinking a cup of warm water with lemon or with Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar in it could be part of your ritual.
You can get more ideas for your morning ritual by reading this article: 6 Morning Rituals of Steve Jobs, Tony Robbins, Oprah, and Other Successful Leaders or by watching Tony Robbins’ morning ritual on YouTube.
Remember, a morning ritual only works if you do it. In creating your morning ritual, find something that you enjoy doing and that you find effective. Evaluate it after a month or two to ensure it’s providing the results you want. Do you feel more productive? Calmer? More focused? If not, make an adjustment and keep at it.
The second thing I suggest to clients are Epsom salt and baking soda baths/soaks.
It could be a relaxing and healing foot soak or a full body bath. Aim for 1 – 3 times per week for best results.
Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, and it is common for people to be deficient in magnesium these days. Since your skin is the body’s largest organ, the body can absorb this important mineral while you’re soaking in it which can be easier on the body than ingesting it.
Magnesium regulates over 300 enzymes in the body and not only draws out toxins, but has numerous health benefits including: eases stress, improves sleep and concentration, makes insulin more effective, helps muscles and nerves function properly, improves oxygen use, and reduces inflammation to relieve pain and muscle cramps.
Because the magnesium in Epsom salts soothes away soreness and assists in the removal of lactic acid from muscle tissue, taking a bath or soak after a hard workout or after a massage is helpful in faster recovery.
And baking soda should be added because it acts as an emulsifier and is great in calming itchy skin or other skin conditions. It is especially useful in neutralizing the chemicals in typical unfiltered bath water.
Taking this kind of a soak boosts our health and well-being, and also strengthens our immune system and can prevent disease. Some people call it a detox bath or soak and sweat out a lot of toxins. Stay well hydrated by drinking relaxing herbal tea or iced water before, during and after your soak. If you have any serious health conditions, check with your doctor before trying this.
When making a foot soak I use 1 handful of Epsom salt to ½ handful baking soda in a small plastic container that my feet fit in perfectly. I soak for 20 minutes or longer – until the hot water starts to get cold. Then I rinse my feet off, moisturize them and get into bed. Easy peasy.
For a detox bath, I fill the tub with hot water, add about 2 cups Epsom salts, 1 cup baking soda, a few drops of essential oil like lavender (optional), get in and soak for 20 minutes or longer. You want as much of your body underwater as you can. My tub isn’t very deep, so I take a small hand towel that I keep wet with hot bath water and cover up any parts sticking out of the water. I close my eyes, do some breathing exercises or meditation, and relax.
When I’m done soaking I’ll shower off quickly, apply some natural argan oil moisturizer (or coconut oil or other natural moisturizer), and climb in to bed for a relaxing night’s sleep. Don’t be surprised if you feel deeply relaxed and extremely calm, the magnesium helps to increase serotonin levels. It sure to be one of the best night’s sleep you’ve had in a while.
Leave a comment to share your experience with morning rituals or detox baths, or to just let me know if you found this info helpful.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash