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8 Tools to Manage Stress

Updated: Dec 15, 2022

Stress is a natural physical and mental reaction to life experiences. If short term, can be beneficial. Stress helps us cope with serious situations by activating the Sympathetic Nervous System, which prepares the body for “e” situations (emergency, exercise, embarrassment, excitement, physical or emotional stress). Our lungs pump more oxygen to blood and our hearts pumps more oxygen to muscles to react quickly. Blood pressure goes up; Adrenaline and cortisol are produced; brain is more alert. “Fight, flight or freeze response”. Being in this state day after day can cause serious health issues.

There are three types of stress:

Chemical Stress. Pollutants in the air, insecticides, drugs, viruses.

Physical Stress. Accidents, trauma, muscle tension.

And Emotional/Psychological Stress. Negative emotions, pressures of life, living in the past or anticipating the future. Even second-hand stress, like watching disturbing film or listening to the news, can create the same response as living in the circumstance. This is what I want to focus.

If stress levels stay elevated, it can affect our overall well-being. High levels of cortisol are linked to brain shrinkage and impaired memory (seen more in women). We are now more susceptible to negative emotions and mental fatigue, particularly since the beginning of the pandemic, including mind-wandering, fear and negativity (paying more attention to bad news than good).

Stress is a state of mind. Psychological stress can last hours, keeping the body in a corrosive bath of hormones, causing the blood to become more acidic, causing inflammation. Psychological Stress is PERCEPTION of our environment and is often more damaging than the stressor, because it can long-exceed the actual events.

Though stress is a state of mind, it certainly affects us on a physical level. Understanding this can help us bring attention to it and give ourselves the gift of changing the perpetual habits. Some of the physical things we think about that are outcomes of stress are headaches or migraines, muscle tension, irritability, anxiety or panic disorder, depression, heartburn, insomnia. But did you know that high levels of stress can also increase bone loss, promote heart disease, eating disorders (or other forms of self-medication), fertility problems or ED and autoimmune diseases.

What about things like increased muscle tension causing musculoskeletal misalignment? This can cause spasm, muscle pain, muscles can’t release, or relax, sending signals of danger to other parts of the body. Increasing overall muscle tension can also increase risk of injury. A yoga practice can’t make a stressful situation go away, but it can change how we perceive and respond to it. If we learn to control what we can, it helps break the stress cycle, creating positive thoughts, atmosphere, and environment.

Feedback from yoga and conscious breathing signals the body of safety and well-being because it activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System.

The Parasympathetic Nervous System counters the fight or flight, with rest and digest, or feed and breed. It increases muscle relaxation, oxygen delivery and blood flow. Decreases heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar. It can be triggered simply by engaging in diaphragmatic breathing, when a yoga practice just isn’t practical.

Re-wiring our brains for healthful expectation and work to create less mental static or inner noise can be accomplished with any (or all) of these tools:

1. Practice pranayama (conscious breathing)

2. Control what we can and let go of what we can’t control

3. Change our perception of environmental factors

4. Practice mindfulness (awareness of present moment)

5. Meditate

6.Practice Asana (yoga postures)

7. Positive Self talk

8. Self- Acceptance

Positive-thinking (remembered wellness meditation, visualizations, imaginary), Morning Gratitude Practice (before thinking of our day), Mindfully being present (observing the breath, observing our surroundings), practicing kindness (sending good feelings, good wishes to others increases oxytocin), social bonding (trust, empathy and generosity. Lowered heart rate makes us feel healthier and happier) and treating ourselves with compassion is something we can and should do starting today.

If you don’t know where to start, contact me and let’s get you on the path to self-care!


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