A significant problem for many people is the amount of stress they feel each day. Various studies have shown that stress plays a great role in many diseases – it weakens your body and permits your weak links to rise up to the surface. It has a role in heart disease, digestive problems, diabetes and weight gain for example. Obviously as well, stress affects your mood and the way you deal with other people. It affects both your personal and social lives.
While there are other components to it (like hormones and nutrition) stress is primarily a nervous system issue. Often it comes after the nervous system has become over-bombarded by simulations, or by brain circuits over-working to imagine or map things out.
The 4-Element Model sees nerves as the Fire element system of the body. Stress, in this context, comes when the Fire of your body – the electrical impulses of your nervous system – become disorganized, scattershot, depleted.
Mentally, you feel stress when that portion of your body you identify with – the brain – is unable to keep it all together. You become irritable, as your highest level Fire, becomes unable to organize the body; you can feel your brain not able to respond gracefully to stimulations from the outside.
Concept: When you feel you have too much nervous system stress (uncontrolled, disorganized Fire) it is often very useful to “ground” yourself into something of “Earth”.
Action Step: Walk every day – especially when you feel stressed
An interesting recent major study showed that the best way to reduce stress is by walking – outside. Here’s what they found by measuring the stress hormone cortisol. Nothing reduced people’s blood cortisol levels nearly as well as walking outside – not gym workouts, calisthenics, or even treadmill and Stairmasters.
The Earth element of your life includes two important parts of this story. First can you see how in the same way that Fire is seen as the nerves of the body, the Earth element of the body is your skeletal system? Walking is an Earth element activity as your feet dynamically engage the earthen ground.
Both the earthen ground and your bones are hard and sturdy. Your capacity to be sturdy against stress is a function of how strong and well-stocked your stores of “Earth element” energy are. Walking is meant to be humankind’s main way to strengthen this Earth energy in us.
Secondly, according to the study, the drop in stress hormone comes as you walk outside. On the most basic level, the Earth element is the primitive physicality of your life. The outside world is that Earth part of our human condition. Stress comes more easily when we are not able to balance the Fire of indoor mental focus with the Earth of physical outdoor action.
One antidote to stress, then, is to walk. You were meant to walk on a regular basis. Clearly, it has always been an important part of the human condition; we stop doing it at our own peril!
Obviously there are other action steps you can take to decrease your stress. Breathing in focused ways can be very useful. And there are nutritional supports that our site has that can be extremely useful to break you out of the stress cycle.