Posts Tagged ‘Stress’
Have you ever stressed out about something you think other people want you to do? Watch as this man questions the thought, “I’m not living up to my full potential.” Funny how we let our minds convince us our thoughts are true that may not be true at all. And then, those thoughts become beliefs we act on or at least stress and worry about so much it can begin to affect our health and well-being.
Since stress is an activation of our “fight or flight” or sympathetic activity, it is important to balance that with our “rest and digest” or parasympathetic activity. I’ve heard many people say they exercise for stress relief. While consistent exercise is a critical component to overall health and improving your body’s capability of coping with stress, it is yet another activiation of your sympathetic system. In fact, competitive athletes consider recovery a valuable part of their training. They understand the need for rest and relaxation to allow their body to recover from the stress it is put under during exercise and intense training.
So while we are unlikely to find a way to live in our world and eliminate all the sources of stress in our life, we can learn to increase our parasympathetic activity to balance that. Here is the key: take 30 minutes a day to engage in some activity that allows your mind to go into a state of relaxation. Choose activities that help you get quiet, restful and worry-free parasympathetic activiation. Every person’s activity might be different. One person could achieve that state by taking a bath each evening to relax but another might take a bath and allow their mind to spin with worries the whole time- that doesn’t count! The key is to do what allows your mind and body to relax for 30 minutes each and every day.
Here’s a list of activities that might work for you:
Yoga or Pilates
Reading in a quiet spot
Listening to soothing music
Taking a bath
When you do this and have actually relaxed, you may notice tension in your neck, shoulder and back release. You might experience a decrease in your heart rate and blood pressure and a sense of calmness. If you do your activity before bed, you will probably be able to fall asleep faster and achieve a better night’s sleep.
Does it sound too simple? It’s obviously not that easy to do because how many of us get 30 minutes a day of a truly relaxed state of mind. But remember all those effects of stress on your body and health- it’s important to allow your body to recover! This is the best way to get control of stress- start today, make it a habit!
A study done in 2003 showed that 80% of Americans reported feeling stressed out. Are you one of them? Take a look at what being stressed can do to your body. Chronic stress can alter our biochemical state and have major effects on our health.
Being stressed puts our bodies in the “fight or flight” state which leads to high levels of cortisol and adrenaline. When we are under chronic stress, the secretion of these hormones takes precedence over other functions like digestion, cellular repair, immune function, reproduction and liver function and detoxification. So we end up with poor blood sugar control, sleep disruption, carbohydrate cravings (which worsens the poor blood sugar control), reduced metabolism, reduced thyroid function, alterered sex hormone activity, infertility, depression, alcohol and drug abuse. Your immune system doesn’t work as well to fight off infections. Stress has even been linked to heart disease.
Basically our bodies are in a state of hormonal imbalance and we simply are not able to function like we want to. Not only that, but stress is also known to decrease the brains functionality causing difficulty thinking and solving problems or a loss of memory. And, after a long time of your body pumping out so much cortisol and adrenaline eventually it wears out and chronic fatigue sets in.
So as you can see, stress is not something to just blow off by saying “things will calm down when the kids are back in school” or “as soon as I get this project done at work my stress level will be a lot less.” You are just continuing the cycle and setting yourself up for problems that are becoming more and more common in America- obesity, heart disease, infertility, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, alcohol and drug abuse.
The best time to slow down and relax is when you don’t have time for it!
Stay tuned for some tips on decreasing your stress level.