May will be the first month of a new series of posts I am calling “Lifestyle Experiments.” As I make changes to my overall health, I thought it would be fun to shape them into pseudo-experiments to share with you what I try and if they make a difference.
The main concern I have with my health right now is managing stress. I have come to realize I run at a certain level, and my body doesn’t really appreciate it. Constant high levels of stress can impact your sympathetic nervous system (the one that triggers your fight or flight response), which can contribute toward several chronic health conditions (1). For me, stress induces migraines, irritability, poor sleep, and an irritated bowel. When left unchecked, it can also lead to depression and increased anxiety.
We may not be able to control the stressors in our lives, but we can control how we respond to them. One of the common denominators I have found in the recommendations for managing stress is the concept of Mindfulness, which is defined as:
“A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
Some examples of mindfulness or mind-body practices include yoga, meditation, tai chi, aromatherapy, art therapy, music therapy, journaling, and many, many more. The overall goal is to find something that helps you to be more present in the moment.
I thought I would choose two mind-body techniques and practice them for two weeks each. I would pick one that I have already started practicing but have had a hard time committing to (Guided Meditation) and one that I have heard about but have not tried (Tapping). I’ll keep a journal and track a few variables that are related to how my body responds to too much stress and at the end see if either method made a difference.
I realize going into this Lifestyle Experiment there are too many variables to control to establish a causal effect. If there is any change, it will be purely correlational. The impact of a specific mind-body practice, in my opinion, is very individual and it takes effort to find what works for each person. What works for me may not work for you. Ultimately, my goal is to commit to a daily mind-body practice to help with managing my stress response. If either of these methods has an effect, I will deem the experiment a success. If neither do, I may just need to give it more time or I may need to try something else.
If you already have a mind-body practice that works for you, I’d love to hear your story. If you conduct your own experiment, let me know how it goes. Feel free to e-mail me or share in the comments below or on Facebook/Instagram.
- A daily mind-body practice will reduce the physiological impact of the stress response on my body, to be measured by sleep quality, gut irritability, and overall mood.
- DAYS 1-14: Guided Meditation (10-20 min)
- DAYS 15-28: Tapping (10-20 min)
APPROX. TIME FOR INTERVENTION
- 9 am each daily
VARIABLES TO MEASURE
- Hours of sleep per night
- Quality of sleep per night
- Overall stress level on a scale of 1-10
- Overall mood on a scale of 1-10
- Bowel irritability on a scale of 1-10