The stress response is an impressive genetic design. In times of old, it allowed us to instantly react to life’s threatening situations. As an enemy raided our village or a tiger pounced, ready to attack, our stress, our sympathetic system innately sprang into action. Our heart rate and blood pressure rose to deliver oxygenated blood to our muscles, our pupils dilated to seek an escape, our digestive and reproductive functions halted to redirect resources to the immediate requirements of survival. Even though it is energy intensive, in a serious situation, this in-built and automatic response could be lifesaving. However, there are few spear wielding attackers or apex animals to content with in our modern day lives. Instead, this taxing response is triggered by modern day events: bills, work pressure, relationship strain, being all things to all people.
Research shows that well over half of our working age population feels more than a little stressed. While we tend to think of stress as a psychological inconvenience, such a common experience that we “should” be able to march right on through, it affects us deeply and completely. It can precipitate exhaustion, burnout, mental illness, and physical disease, infections, and viruses. Stress plays havoc with our hormones, prunes our productivity, and leaves us living a life less than we deserve.
The great news is that nature offers answers. Powerful and simple steps to calm an overactive stress system. Ways to settle gently down into our deepest self, to acknowledge our challenges, and to let go, to simply surrender. Here are five steps that I just love; that bring calm and transformation in the short and long term.
1) A wholesome food plan
What we eat provides the nutrients we need to build healthy bodies and minds. However, stress can alter our preferences. Stress-induced sugar cravings occur because consuming simple sugars provides the rapid energy jump we need to respond to a situation. After an hour or two, our blood sugar crashes. We then reach out for additional sweetness, or caffeinated products, to boost our flagging vitality. While it may seem like it, our bodies are not trying to harm us; the opposite in fact. It is simply implementing the system that will enable you to watch the sunrise again tomorrow.
By adding organic fresh fruit, vegetables, leafy greens and lean, healthy proteins and fats the body receives the nutrients it needs to be well, to down regulate the sympathetic response, and to regain its desire for foods that heal, rather than harm.
2) Enjoyable exercise
Physical exercise offers countless benefits. It delivers a wonderful dose of endorphins and calms the stress response. That’s why after a yoga or dance class, walk or swim, we feel relaxed and elated. It's why joggers experience the runners high and the end of an aerobics class is met with beautiful, glowing people. In one sense, it's like we’ve fulfilled our genetic brief: We’ve moved like we would if fleeing or fighting a foe. Being often active is therapeutic, just choose an activity you enjoy so there is no stress attached.
3) Restorative slumber
Have you skipped out on sleep because there was a big project to complete, an event to attend, or a Netflix marathon to enjoy? Once in while is harmless, but ask yourself: How often do you swap slumber for something else? We must sleep well to cope with the stressors that life throws at us. In fact, how we perceive stress depends, in part, on how rested we are.
To sleep well, prioritizing this health giving practice is key. Set a standard time to wake, create a quiet, perfectly dark and comfortably cool boudoir, ensure your linen is natural, your mattress and pillow are comfortably supportive, and set aside blue light emitting sources for at least two hours before bedtime. That includes your tablet, smartphone, computer and television. Perhaps try lying on an Ajnamat for 15 minutes to calm the mind and let your body prepare for rest. If you simply cannot do without these, install a blue light blocker like f.lux.
4) A worry journal
Do you worry that you’ll forget a significant task or feel deeply about a situation that you can’t express? This monkey chatter can propel ruminating thoughts through your days and nights. Distracting, disturbing, these negative emotions incessantly prime the sympathetic system. A worry journal allows you to write down the pining’s of your inner mind. This process can allow you to surrender bottled up strain.
Ancient wisdom and modern science have combined to allow a deeper understanding of the profound benefits of meditation. People often say that it’s impossible to not think, but this is not what meditation is. As we share in another article, “What meditation will teach you is how to observe your thoughts with some objectivity and curiosity–and without any criticism.” It enables us to realize that the monkey chatter isn’t us. Emotions can be released. Stress can be simply let go.
Putting it into practice
I promise, life can become simpler and peaceful, even amongst that craziness of modern life. Strain-related signs and symptom can silently diminish and fade into the past, the surrender opening your experience to joy, wonder and health. Choose one practice to implement and begin, without judgment or expectation. And as you notice stress leave your body and mind, reach out. Let us know what has helped most.
About the author-
Rebecca Harwin is a Chiropractor, natural health expert and a bestselling author with a passion for wellbeing and a love of all things gentle. She is the founder of ConquerYourPCOSNaturally.com. Her mission? To empower women to live a compassionate life they adore.
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