Sleep is an important factor in mitigating stress, creating energy and improving performance. We want to sleep at night to regenerate, process and digest the effects of any stressors we encountered during the day. A good night’s sleep is like a mini-holiday, where you can take a break from it all. A time when you are letting the mind, body and emotions disconnect from daily life and diving into a very different reality of dreams, letting the subconscious take over. However, if stress gets too much, our sleep is affected and we no longer have the ability to regenerate at night. So what exactly are the causative factors of stress or resilience?
These are life events, ranging from normal and natural to severely traumatic. Unresolved, these experiences can weaken resilience and increase susceptibility to additional stress factors. As soon as one more stress factor arrives in addition to your base stress level, the overall stress experience increases dramatically. Improving resilience would create a bit of leeway, so that when a stress factor arrives, the glass is still only half-full. With resilience, we will be able to deal with short-term stresses much better and can avoid off-days, burnouts or breakdowns.
Normal Life Changes:
These are things that occur to everyone. They are part of the human experience, one that we all have in common. These are: moving house, changing jobs, a messy divorce, ageing, menopause, grieving for a loved one, raising children, caring for sick or elderly parents, and so on.
Additional Life Events:
These are things which could “potentially” be avoided. These extra stressors arise from things such as conflicting goals, dissatisfactory relationships, an overloaded nervous system, too much work, fast approaching deadlines, facing too many fears at once, prolonged unhappiness, feeling out of control, and inability to cope.
Traumatic Life Events:
These are things which often cause severe changes to our mental health. Examples are: being a soldier or a civilian in a war-zone, homelessness and fleeing as a refugee, childhood abuse and trauma, being the second-generation children of parents with traumatic mental health changes, abusive or degenerative adult relationships, and severe shock.
Lifestyle choices improve or weaken stress resilience. A damaged lifestyle heightens stress levels in the body. It also increases susceptibility to additional stress factors. Stress can have a physical, mental or emotional origin, but eventually the whole being is affected. What we allow our bodies and our nervous system to be exposed to will leave an imprint on our well-being, in a good way but also in a bad way.
This is WHAT we eat and drink, whereby one solution doesn’t fit all, but some guidelines apply to all. It is also HOW we eat and drink it, WHEN we eat and drink it and also WHY we eat and drink it. An example could be emotional overeating of sweet, comfort or junk food at night, because we are upset and lonely. This could be the pizza far too late at night or the additional chocolate bar we don’t really need. It could also be things such as habitually rushing through a convenience lunch at your desk, because you are busy working and don’t pay attention to your nutritional needs, natural urges and natural processes. Or, it could extend to binge drinking and/or drug taking, which are also quick stress relief and self-medication methods, which have the opposite long-term effect.
What goes into our physical body needs to be digested by the digestive system and nourishes our organs and physical tissues. Waste products from this process should leave the body. If they don’t leave the body, we experience another cause of stress, constipation and/or toxins entering the blood stream. What we also need to pay attention to is the non-physical consumption. We have a gross digestive system for physical matter but we also have a subtle digestive system for non-physical consumption. If we can’t cope and when we have been exposed to “more than we can chew”, we experience stress and this will become physical and affect the physical digestive system in turn, causing sickness, bloating, constipation or diarrhoea. Non-physical consumption includes all six senses, not just the sense of taste, but also what we hear, see, touch, smell and intuitively perceive. This could be watching too many horror movies at night, listening to the same friend offload their problems on you without any intention of change, getting involved with things, and being exposed to that which you can’t yet emotionally, mentally and physically cope with at the present time.
Behavioural choices either lead to further stress, or resilience. For example, regular time off and taking breaks, or continual working, positive and supportive or negative and unhelpful interaction with others, the quality of relationships, natural living and being close to nature or living in an artificial concrete jungle, whether we use natural methods of healing or expect a quick fix, and how, where, when and why we exercise. It includes how you think and treat yourself, how much kindness and understanding you grant yourself. It’s about your self-talk and whether you are truthful to who you are, or whether you are squeezing into an ill-fitting role. And again, it is not only what you choose, it is also the placement in time, the motivation and how you approach this activity. We speak about healing a damaged lifestyle and about lifestyle diseases of epidemic proportions. The way we choose and conduct our life will have an impact on physical, mental and emotional well-being and either build resilience or weaken it.
According to Ayurveda, body type can be a combination of three variables, and again three variables dictate the mind type. This is a factor you cannot change in its origin and needs to be accepted. But what you can do is compensate with lifestyle choices for any shortfall at a given time. None of the combinations is better than the other; there is no perfect body type. They all have their strengths and weaknesses and these strengths and weaknesses come into effect during various seasons in a year.
It is possible to increase your resilience against external stressors by removing the underlying causes of stress through lifestyle change. This lifestyle change may include addressing traumas though holistic healing methods, consuming healing foods suitable for season and body type, being aware of the effects of non-physical consumption on your nervous system and subconscious, and consistently making better behavioural lifestyle choices.
Sonja Breuer (MSc. ayur. med.) is tapping into a niche solution for improving sleep by combining the eastern medicine of Ayurveda and yoga. The products available are online courses and individual coaching. She encourages people to embrace lifestyle changes to bring about better sleep, leading to greater levels of well-being, energy and performance. Sonja is qualified with a postgraduate degree in Ayurvedic medicine and has more than 1000 yoga-teaching hours. She holds coaching and mentoring diplomas and has energy healing abilities. She has devised online programmes for better sleep: “7 Steps to Better Sleep” and “Yoga for Better Sleep”, so you can get started immediately, either before or whilst working with her in person, either online or offline.