Will the only person on this planet who lives without stress, please raise your hand.
Stress: some is good, too much is dangerous to your brain.
The ambulance siren screams, it’s warning to get out of the way. You can’t move your car because you’re stuck in a bumper to bumper traffic jam and you know you will be late for your meeting. There must be an accident up ahead. Meanwhile, the road construction crew a few feet from your car is using a jackhammer on the pavement right beside you.Yourealizeyouforgottogetsomethingoutofthefreezer fordinnerandthekidsneedapermissionsliptogoontheclassfieldtripOhmy.
You have just entered the stress zone!
Because of, or in spite of, our present time and place, we are all subject to stress of one kind or another. Some stress is good. It prepares your brain and/or body to be on high alert and ready for what may be coming next. When a stressful situation occurs, your brain and body react by producing hormones – adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol. These hormones increase heart rate and respiration, send more blood to skeletal muscles, dull pain, and stimulate the immune system. You become mentally alert and all systems are “go”.
However, if stress levels remain high for a sustained amount of time or if they occur too frequently, your brain and body suffer. Many psychological/medical studies suggest a large percentage of visits to the doctor’s office are due to psychological problems, often the direct result of stress. The way your brain perceives stress determines whether stress is experienced as a panic or a challenge. While normal stress protects the body in times of threat, prolonged stress may potentially damage both your brain and your body.
“All well and good”, you say, “Stress happens. What can I do about it?”
“There are several right answers”, she said confidently. First, in my classes I have people learn to breathe. (Did you know most of us don’t know how to breathe efficiently?) Right now, put your hand on your belly and breathe in expanding your belly like a balloon. Hold your breath for a count of 5 and slowly breathe out. This form of deep breathing is known to slow heart rate and reduce blood pressure (108/65 after a yoga/breathing class for me)
Running a close second is exercise (there is that word again). Exercise can reduce the experience of stress, depression, and anxiety. Dozens of scientific studies have demonstrated the relationship between exercise and the reduction of stress.
Three is meditation which promotes lower blood pressure and slows the heart rate. Four is caring relationships which help in creating emotional trust, support, and relaxation. And five is caring for a pet which may provide significant emotional comfort that helps reduce stress (think purring cat).