A Simple practice to reduce stress levels
There’s no denying it, we live in a world of racing, tension and stress. There is not a day that I don’t hear someone mention how flat out they are, especially this time of year.
From the times of caveman fighting sabre tooth tigers (or whatever!) the body has adapted amazing to ways of surviving. This works perfectly for acute times giving energy to fight or flee the danger, but not for chronic occurrence where moments turn into hours, week to months and so on.
Our bodies are often in flight mode from continual stress, it gets so involved with the fight or flight responses that it doesn’t look after other body functions.
Stress is one of the major causes of free radicals, those little pacmen that attack our cells, damaging them, deforming them and leading to oxidative stress, which leads to degenerate diseases such as cancer, heart disease etc.
When the body is in constant stress it is not focused on the immune system and chronic depression of the immune system is catastrophic. Healing responses are blocked, causing it to eventually break down.
Stress also effects digestion and elimination resulting in less nutrition and more toxins. As the larger energy output creates more wear and tear, more nutrients go into fixing and also feeding the stress response. The body will always prioritise for survival and will leach needed nutrients from organ and bones. Stress depletes vitamins minerals, antioxidants, vitamin c, b complex, zinc, magnesium and other vital nutrients.
Stress blocks serotonin and endorphin levels, which are you happy hormones – in moments of stress the body shuts its doors in cells to experience positive emotions because if you are in the middle of saving your life it is better to have anger, rage, fear.
As the body can only store a little bit energy in liver, the rest is stored as fat. Stress promotes weight gain as it tells the body that we need to store more energy and stress hormones in case we need to fight or flight again!
I’m not going to do a sermon on slowing down, each person has their own story, purpose, struggle in surviving and succeeding in life. However is a simple, easy, non-time consuming technique that can help whilst you are in the middle of a stressful time.
Sufficient oxygen to cell is the primary component of optimal health. However most of us are not delivering! If you have ever watched a baby breathe you will notice its little tummy go in and out. That is the way we are supposed to breathe. Throughout the years we learn to breathe through the chest, partly for vanity of a flat tummy. Also anxiety activates your fight or flight system where the body releases adrenaline and reacts as though the person is in a fearful situation, even though they are not. Shallow, upper chest breathing is part of the typical stress response.
However did you know that 80% of our oxygen receptors are in the lower lobes. Breathing through our tummy stimulates our parasympathetic system – the one that says all is ok, in particular the vagus nerve which acts as the mind body connection and controls your relaxation response.
Stress response can be reduced, slowing the heartbeat and lower or stabilising blood pressure by consciously breathing using the diaphragm (breathing through our abdomen).
You don’t have to join a commune and live among the trees to do this. Simple, quick sessions can benefit greatly. Breathe in slowly through your nose, allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully. Now breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose, if that feels more natural). The out breath should be longer than in breath.
Do this as many situations throughout the day…in the car, as you wake, before you eat, making regular habits will allow your subconscious to automatically breathe better throughout the whole day and night. Especially at times of acute stress (for me that example would be public speaking), try to remember and take time to focus on belly breathing. If you are in the right situation also focus on a soothing word (such as peace or calm) and visualise a tranquil scene.
See how you feel…. I would love to hear your results
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