If you want to prevent stress from further damaging your bones, it’s very important to make peace with your osteoporosis or osteopenia diagnosis. I understand that this may sound challenging; but I’m excited to let you know you that it doesn’t have to be.
That’s what today’s five steps are all about – they show you how to live in the moment so you can stop worrying about the past and the future. In sharing them, I hope to encourage you on your wellness journey as you’ll discover how to overcome bone-damaging stress. I know your bones (and the rest of your body) will thank you!
Stress And Anxiety Defined
Many people use the terms “stress” and “anxiety” interchangeably, or at least in similar contexts. There are some differences between the two, however, as well as similarities.
Stress is a response to an external factor, or stressor. Anxiety has causes that are usually more vague, but can be the result of stress.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), the difference between stress and anxiety is that:
“… stress is a response to a threat in a situation. Anxiety is a reaction to the stress.”1
While they differ in cause, both stress and anxiety are unpleasant and ultimately bad for your health and your bones, because, among other things, they increase levels of bone-destroying cortisol in the blood. The good news is that the following five tips provide the tools to relieve both of these issues.
1. Accept The Diagnosis – And All The Scary Feelings That May Come With It
At first, this may sound counterintuitive. After all, if your doctor just diagnosed you with a bone “disease” that he or she claims could cripple you, of course you’re going to feel worried, unhappy, scared, and a host of other unpleasant emotions. I know I did! And you want those emotions to stop.
But here’s what can happen if you try to run from the emotions: in trying to escape the anxious thoughts, you can get frustrated with yourself and end up being anxious about the anxiety! That is because the anxious thoughts don’t go away just because you’re running from them.
When you’re anxious about your anxiety, you then have primary emotions and secondary ones to deal with, all ruining the present moment if you focus on them.
If you find yourself saying things like, “I should not be this afraid,” or “I hate being stressed out,” then it’s time to stop a moment and just let the emotions be. Accept them. Realize that it’s only natural to be anxious about osteoporosis, especially if your doctor used scare tactics to try to persuade you to take osteoporosis drugs.
Go ahead and accept the fact that yes, you’re anxious and upset. Tell yourself it’s okay to feel that way. Don’t judge yourself; you can’t help how you feel.
Don’t misunderstand – this is not “wallowing” in your negative feelings. It’s just a matter of taking a mental moment to stop and embrace what you are feeling now. Then you may find that, ironically, it’s easier to let emotions dissipate if you accept them first. After all, you’re not accepting your circumstances as if you’re defeated; you’re just accepting how you feel about them.
Once you “take hold” of your emotions through acceptance, it puts them in their place. Your feelings no longer have the right to dictate what you do. Now you can tell your emotions what to do. It’s a positive role-reversal!
2. Savor The Present
Without realizing it, many of us get trapped between thoughts of the past and the future. Think for a moment about how you view pleasurable activities. If you’re enjoying a delicious dish, do you worry about gaining weight (future)? Or maybe you start thinking about how it’s not as good as the last time you had it (past). It’s so easy to fall into these thought patterns; but the fact is that these all distract from the present moment. And that is the essence of worry – it’s always focused on the past or future, neither of which you can change. And that adds to the worry.
To break these patterns, teach your mind to enjoy what you’re doing now. Continuing with the food example, focus on the eating experience for its own sake. Stop and think about what you’re doing – the texture of the food, details about the flavor, how it feels to chew it, how it smells – all of these are present-moment things. This allows your body to relax and enjoy the moment.
So the first thing to do is identify where you have these thought patterns (during meals? while you’re exercising? etc.). The second thing is to identify activities that you can choose to savor rather than rush through, such as drinking a cup of coffee in the morning, walking from your office to a restaurant for lunch, or listening to your favorite songs. And the third step is to enjoy the relaxed sensations that come with savoring the moment.
3. Go With The Flow By Narrowing Your Focus
In this day and age full of distractions, narrowing your focus to one thing at a time means you need to be deliberate about it. It is not likely to happen automatically.
To narrow your focus and block out distractions, the first thing to do is define your task and its attenuating goals. Be very specific and think small. Is your task preparing a meal? Then think about each step and know the next one you must take. Your focus never goes beyond the very next step.
Maybe instead of meal preparation you’re engaging in exercise. Think of each move your making and prepare for the next one, being mindful of how your body is responding and how well you’re performing each move. This provides immediate feedback to keep your attention on the task at hand.
The goal of this narrow focus is to achieve a somewhat paradoxical state: you are so aware of the moment that you become unaware of distractions. You’re entirely too focused to notice them. Worry and anxiety melt away because your mind is otherwise occupied.
4. Sit Up And Take Notice Of New Things
If you’ve traveled the same commute, walked the same road, worked in the same office for years, then it’s easy to go into “autopilot” mode and fail to engage with the world around you.
This sets the stage for worrisome thoughts to creep in. You’re something of a blank slate when you’re mentally “checked out,” opening the door for stressful, anxious thoughts.
Engaging your environment is an excellent way to alleviate this state and stimulate your mind, and that involves taking a fresh look at the world. Stop and look around. You’ll start to see that everything changes, from the weather to the faces of the people you see when you’re out and about. And make a point to notice that your feelings and thoughts are different from day to day, even if you’re traveling the same road.
After a while, this fresh take on your surroundings will become a habit. Each day you will learn to make your experience new by noticing subtle changes. Everyday activities take on new excitement, and stress becomes a much less formidable foe.
5. Don’t Focus So Much Attention On Yourself
We spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week with ourselves. Naturally, we think about ourselves a lot, which can take the form of self-consciousness. It’s a small step from self-consciousness to anxiety, worrying about how you look, what you say, how you say it, and generally being overly concerned with what others think.
This can be a source of great stress and anxiety.
To alleviate this self-focus and really let you be you, shift your focus to what’s outside yourself right in this moment. If you’re feeling self-conscious about standing up and giving a speech, or you’re stuck in self-evaluation after you’ve given a presentation (for example), turn your mind to what’s in the room around you. What color are the walls? What’s the view like from the windows? What’s the overall impression of the room that you are a part of in this moment? Look at the expressions on the peoples’ faces. Notice the color and tone of their clothing and body language.
This enables you to step outside of yourself and see yourself as part of a scene. You become a witness of your experience, which deflects criticism and social pressure. From a more objective standpoint, other people’s opinions about you just don’t matter as much.
Learning to let go of the effect other people’s opinions about what you should or should not do about your bone health is an important component of the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.
Being Comfortable On The “Road Less Traveled”
There’s no doubt that the Osteoporosis Reversal Program takes a non-conformist approach. Your doctor may shame you for opting out of taking osteoporosis drugs; your family may express shock and dismay; your friends and colleagues may look at you as if you’ve lost your mind.
In addition to the worry that often accompanies an osteoporosis or osteopenia diagnosis, such reactions to your bone-health choices can be a significant stressor.
When I created the Program, I knew that stress and anxiety would factor in to the whole osteoporosis picture. That’s why I devoted an entire chapter, Chapter 14, to the topic of stress relief. Entitled “Relax and Have Fun,” this chapter takes an in-depth look at the effects of stress and worry on bone health.
In that chapter, I share 10 simple yet effective behavioral changes you can make to reduce stress. In addition, you’ll find suggestions for various stress-reduction techniques, such as Yoga, guided imagery, and deep breathing.
Stop Worrying About Your Bone Loss
Join thousands of Savers from around the world who have reversed or prevented their bone loss naturally and scientifically with the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.
Bone health is about whole health. Your mental and emotional state is as important as your physical state, and the two are intertwined. As you learn to be confident in your bone-health choices, take steps to let anxious thoughts go away, and comfortably walk the “road less traveled” as shown in the Program, your bones will rejuvenate and flourish.
Till next time,
1 “Stress.” Anxiety And Depression Association Of America. Web. May 4, 2016. http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/stress