Did you know that 80% of us struggle with stress on a regular basis?
Stress is your body’s reaction to a physical, mental or emotional strain or tension. It is brought upon by physiological, psychological and environmental events that the body perceives as challenging, threatening or demanding. These events are called stressors.
Untreated chronic stress can result in serious health conditions including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Research shows that stress can contribute to the development of major chronic conditions, such as heart disease, depression and obesity. Some studies have even suggested that unhealthy chronic stress management, such as overeating “comfort” foods, has contributed to the growing obesity epidemic.
The body’s response to stress is initiated and controlled by your autonomic nervous system which consists of two major operating systems:
- The sympathetic nervous system, which produces the body’s stress response, also known as “fight or flight”; and
- The parasympathetic nervous system, which produces the body’s relaxation response, also known as “rest and digest.”
A stress response entails the release of hormones, such as cortisol, which effect of the body in the following ways:
- Changes in digestion (caused by increased blood flow to the muscles and reduced blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract)
- Dilation of blood vessels
- Increased breathing (respiration) rate
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure (caused by increased blood flow to the brain)
- Increased blood sugar levels (to provide more energy)
It is possible to manage your stress levels, here’s how…
Change Your Reaction to Stressors
It all comes down to how you view stressful situations. If you teach yourself to enjoy chores rather than see them as annoying, you can train your brain to perceive chore-related tasks as less stressful. Instead of thinking of stress as a demoralizer, a threat, overwhelming, or debilitating, consider it to be a challenge, an opportunity, or even energizing and inspiring. Focus on possibilities rather than on problems.Once you associate positivity with a task or event, your brain won’t see it as a stressor anymore and won’t initiate a cascading“fight or flight” response.
Take a Walk, Dance, Work Out
Getting a workout isn’t just good for the body. It releases endorphins which lead to better sleep, better outlook, and increased sense of happiness. Just 5 minutes of aerobic exercise each day can lower your stress levels. And if you just don’t have time to go to the gym, play upbeat music, crank up the volume, and dance in your living room.
Take a Bubble Bath
Stress means that the brain and body are overstimulated. So allowing yourself downtime is important when dealing with stress. Best ways to relax are taking a bath with epsom salts and a few drops of lavender essential oil, watching a funny movie, having a massage or Reiki session, or sitting out in the yard and enjoying nature.
Meditation is a powerful way to release stress and stay centered in the face of life’s inevitable upsets. According to the Chopra Center, meditation reverses the effects of your body’s “fight or flight” response. In meditation, you journey from activity to silence. You go beyond the noisy thoughts in the mind and enter a state of restful alertness. In this state, your body experiences many healing effects, including:
- Decreased heart rate
- Normalization of blood pressure
- Deeper breathing
- Reduced production of stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline
- Strengthened immunity
- More efficient oxygen use by the body
- Decreased inflammation in the body
When you meditate on a regular basis, you are giving your body all of the benefits of deep rest, which gradually help to release the accumulated effects of chronic stress and restore your body to its natural state of balance and health.
Meditate 5 minutes a day every day for the next 14 days. Then increase to 7-10 minutes a day. Best to do this first thing when you wake up or just before you go to sleep.
Download the Insight Timer App. This app has thousands of free guided meditations. Search for 5-minute guided meditations that appeal to you and use those instead of the simple meditation that was suggested above. Your choice. Whatever works for you. Just 5 minutes a day. You can do this!