Today I wanted to talk with you about health’s biggest antagonist: stress.
I know that when starting a new wellness regime, diet and exercise get all the attention, but stress reduction is equally as important. That’s why I thought we’d flip the script, and also give you something you can start working on today!
We’re all familiar with it… Maybe work is too demanding or we’re struggling with a relationship. Unfortunately, stress is something we’ve all grown pretty familiar with in today’s society.
On a positive note, not all stress is bad! A healthy amount of pressure can drive us to work harder and protect us from a threatening situation. That's all thanks to an instinct we have known as the “fight or flight” response. Prehistorically, humans may have found themselves in situations where they needed to think quickly in order to survive. So the fight or flight response may have given them all the adrenaline they needed to react quickly and stay alive.
Today, we still respond to stress in the same way. If we’re put under stress, cortisol and adrenaline hormones are released. And when these hormones are released, our bodies still experience similar symptoms as our ancestors. Our breath is quickened, our faces get flushed, and often times we feel a need to run or fight. This can be a good thing in certain situations, but it probably isn’t necessary when you’re stranded in traffic or during a pop quiz.
So while a little bit of cortisol and adrenaline is good for our health, too much is detrimental to our well-being. It can cause a number of health problems, both physical and mental. But the best news is, we can control the way we respond to those stressors. There are so many things we can do to help lower our adrenaline and keep our minds healthy. Here are some things you can try wherever you are:
Whether it’s via a mediation app or a yoga class, I’m guessing you’ve heard this one before. But the bottom line is, it works! Taking deep breaths completely replenishes us by flooding our blood with oxygen. The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, flustered, or sad try the 4-7-8 technique. Start by closing your eyes and inhale for 4 seconds. Then, hold your breath for 7 seconds, followed by exhaling for 8 seconds. Do this a few times and feel your body relax.
2. Get Active
If our ancestors experienced stress that triggered a fight or flight response in them, they’d likely have then had a surge of energy to either… you guessed it… fight or flee. So the next time you’re feeling angry and your heart is racing and your muscles are tensing, use them for what they were made for! Go for a walk or a run outside. Try a kickboxing class. Dance around in your room. It doesn’t matter what your method is, just get your body moving and release some of that energy.
3. Practice Regular Self-Care
A great way to lower your stress levels is by doing everything you can to prevent stress from building up in the first place. Simply put, do more of what you love. Listen to music, do a puzzle, take a bath, make a list of things that make you happy or things you’d like to achieve. Whatever it is that you love, do more of it.
We know, we know, you’re too wound up to meditate. You don’t have time. It’s not your thing. But before you roll your eyes and get back to doing 18-things at once, consider this: a study published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience reported that the practice can reduce anxiety levels by up to 22%. Research has also suggested that meditating can actually form new and permanent neural connections in the brain.
The amazing thing? All you need is five minutes a day. Anyone can do it, and the more consistent you are, the easier it becomes. All you need to get started is a few minutes, a quiet room, and a timer. Never tried it before? Check out our quick 5-minute guide to meditation.
We’ll never be able to completely avoid stress. And some days we’ll be better at managing it than others.. but we’ve got your back! The most beautiful thing about human nature, is that we’re on this journey together.