Which Wolf Do you Feed?

Without some stress I may not have enough motivation to get out of bed in the morning. A healthy amount of stress can motivate us to toward a fulfilling life, but let’s look at what too much stress does.


Chronic stress has been linked to a wide range of aliments and illnesses such as intestinal problems, gum disease, erectile dysfunction, growth problems, heart disease, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression and even cancer to name a few.  With the ongoing development of research crossing the disciplines of psychology, medicine, neuroscience and genetics, it is rapidly becoming understood how stress and illnesses are connected.  One study found that people who experience high amounts of workplace stress are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes.

OSHA has classified stress as a workplace hazard and it is estimated that stress causes American industry over $300 billion in losses annually. When we look at the effects of stress on our population we can see that behavioral disability costs have increased more than 300% over the past decade and account for 30% of all disability claims. Additionally, medical doctors suggest that stress is the factor underlying illnesses for more than 70% of all visits to the family doctor.

It is a serious issue and let’s face it.  Stress is killing us.  So what can we do about it?  Here are some simple suggestion that I have found helpful for de-stressing:

Suggestion #1: Have an attitude of gratitude.

Look for what you are grateful for every day. This shifts your awareness away from what you are unhappy with and brings your focus onto what is working in your life. Having a daily practice is more powerful and effective than sporadically doing it. I like to start my day by thinking of everything that I am grateful for and talking myself into a good mood before I even get out of bed. Some days are easier than others, but by doing this everyday it ensures that I get up on the “right” side of the bed each day. You can also try going through the alphabet thinking or listing something that you are grateful for that begins with each letter. Do what works for you and find fun ways to do it every day.

Suggestion #2: Practice forgiveness.

When you hold a grievance toward someone or a situation it is only poisoning you. It affects your mental health as well as your physical health.

In his book, Five Steps to Forgiveness, clinical psychologist Everett Worthington Jr. offers a five-step process he calls REACH. First, Recall the hurt. Then Empathize and try to understand the act from the perpetrator’s point of view. Be Altruistic by recalling a time in your life when you were forgiven. Commit to putting your forgiveness into words. You can do this either in a letter to the person you’re forgiving or in your journal. Finally, try to Hold onto the forgiveness. Don’t dwell on your anger, hurt, and desire for vengeance.

Suggestion #3: Be aware of your thoughts.

I love the story of the two wolves:

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two “wolves” inside us all. One is Evil. – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is Good. – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”  The old Cherokee simply replied, “the one you feed.”

Which thoughts do you feed?

Once you are aware of what your thoughts are, you have the ability to consciously choose what you think about and believe. This makes it easier to counteract the negative ones (evil) and replace them with more positive thoughts (good).

Suggestion #4: Meditate.

Meditate or just give your mind some quiet time.  Go for a walk, take a yoga class or painting class.  Find the style or method that you resonate with (or whatever works best for you) and do it daily. Give yourself permission to make this a priority. You are worth it!

Suggestion #5: Nourish Your Body

I have been taking Univera’s Extra for a few years now and really love it.  They have a variety of products for vitality and the effects of stress on the body.  Try it for your self, they have a 90 day money back guarantee. Find out more about them or place your order now!

Kerri Burnside is the Co-Publisher of the Bellingham Muse. She has been teaching stress management for over 15 years and offers a weekly guided meditation for stress reduction that is open to the public. See the schedule and location here.