“You should never view your challenges as a disadvantage. Instead, it’s important for you to understand that your experience facing and overcoming adversity is actually one of your biggest advantages.”
– Michelle Obama
Occupy Sanity Tool (OST): Stretching
It is a well-known fact that stretching our muscles improves flexibility, prevents injuries, and makes our workouts more effective. According to an article from Prevention, “7 Amazing Things That Happen to Your Body When You Stretch Every Day” stretching can lower blood sugar and stress levels.
Good Stress vs. Bad Stress
As for stress levels, studies have shown that a bit of stress, a.k.a, excitement, drive, and motivation, is good for us. We need some energy to achieve the dreams and goals that we have chosen. Sometimes this means, stretching ourselves to rise up, physically & mentally.
In the article “How to Tell the Difference between good stress and bad stress”, we can define stress as:
“…a burst of energy that basically advises you on what to do.”
Described like that, stress is neither good nor bad rather a biological process that gives us some direction. To further explain how the body reacts, the author notes that:
“Stress is also a vital warning system, producing the fight-or-flight response. When the brain perceives some stress, it starts flooding the body with chemicals like epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol. This creates a variety of reactions, such as an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. Plus, the senses suddenly have a laser-like focus so you can avoid physically stressful situations — such as jumping away from a moving car — and be safe. In addition, there are various health benefits with a little bit of stress…” including the possibility that it actually will strengthen our immune system.
How Far To Stretch/Stress
Yet with most everything in life, there needs to be a balance. While there is plenty of advice on the correct amount of stretching, I believe it’s up to each of us to know and determine our limits physically, mentally, and spiritually. We each have the opportunity to decide when to lean in or back off.
Through mindful awareness of our body and mind, we train ourselves to know when we are overstretching and thus depleting our reserves and possibly injuring ourselves. Likewise, we can realize when we are not stretching enough, which can lead to stiffness and soreness, as well as boredom, frustration, and stagnation.
In a way, this can be the difference between knowing when to take a pause, to stretch your legs or when it’s time to go further by (stretching) or spreading your wings.
To Stretch or Not
I learned first-hand how not knowing my limitations and ignoring them caused me to overstretch (stress) myself. I created an auto-immune disease that compromised the health of my body, mind & soul.
Fortunately, this experience taught me how doing life at my full stretch (defined as using the maximum amount of effort or energy) needed to be tempered/balanced with equal time for rest. Plus, with my meditation & mindfulness practices, I learned valuable information about my unique internal guidance system that enabled me to recover and maintain my equilibrium.
This OST takes continuous practice. I think it’s inherent in being alive that we evolve and change; thus, how we stretch ourselves improves with us. Using this OST starts with mindfulness, which involves staying present with yourself when you’re facing challenges, whether they be physical, mental, or spiritual.
Remember to pause and breathe deep into the stretch. Go slow to test your flexibility and strength. Pause again if necessary. Push yourself a bit when appropriate. There are many benefits of stretching yourself, just the right amount.
Here’s a reminder of one of them:
“Life will test you, but remember this, when you walk up a mountain, your legs get stronger.” ~ Anonymous
We would love to hear about your experience with this OST in the comments below.