Many of my clients struggle with stress, and I see the effects it has on our physical and emotional well being daily. So, I decided to write this post in the hope that you might find comfort in my words. I want to offer you some practical strategies for reducing the effects of stress in your daily lives. Ensuring your mind, body, and soul are in balance, and that stress is not controlling your life.
What is stress?
Modern life is busy. We rush from moment to moment, rarely taking the time to pause and truly check in with ourselves.
The strain of constantly rushing around accumulates in our bodies and minds and if we are not careful, can soon become stress.
There is such a thing as good stress. You might have experienced good stress when you have challenged yourself through exercise or persevered to learn a new skill.
And then there is bad stress. If we don’t recognise this negative kind of stress and take measures to seek relief, we can find ourselves experiencing a downward spiral of feeling overwhelmed. We might begin to experience stress as anxiety, insomnia, or depression.
Stress often occurs when people’s expectations are not in harmony with their environment. It can be triggered by physical, emotional, or chemical imbalances.
What does stress do to our bodies?
Our bodies are extraordinary instruments. When our bodies and minds are working together in harmony, we feel invincible. But, when the balance tips, our bodies instinctively switch into a stress response mode. We adopt survival thinking, much like the cave man.
Stress triggers physiological changes in our bodies. These changes affect the way we think and the way we behave. Under stress, we function from the back of the brain, which in turn puts our body into a highly adrenalised fight or flight mode.
Fight or flight?
Ever felt so pumped you could take on a woolly mammoth? Or, so shaky in the legs you just had to move? That’s you in fight or flight mode. Very handy if you need to chase down a monster, not so great if you need to make a rational decision, or present a conference paper.
In fight or flight mode our heart beats fast to pump all the blood from the central body down to our hands and legs. All the bodily systems we don’t need for fighting or fleeing are shut down, including our digestive, reproductive and immune systems.
Think about what that means for your health and well-being. If you are constantly in a state of stress, imagine the effect it is having on your body.
Now you can begin to understand why you often get sick when you are stressed, or why your reproductive system may not function properly, or why you may be having digestive issues.
Adrenaline vs cortisol
Adrenaline is largely responsible for the immediate physical sensations we have when we feel stressed. We have all experienced a rapidly beating heart, tense muscles, faster breathing, even sweating. That’s the adrenaline coursing through your body. It can give us a surge of energy, but too much adrenaline can also cause fatigue.
Cortisol is the hormone that regulates the bodily functions that aren’t crucial during the fight or flight response. If we hold onto stress, and we don’t talk our issues through, our body won’t know when to stop, and it will continue to release cortisol. This excess of cortisol then impacts our body function and exacerbates our feelings of stress.
So, the important lesson to learn from this is: when you face a stressful situation, you need to learn to shake it off and let it go! If you don’t break the cycle and move on, your body will remain in a state of distress.
Stress accumulates. It won’t just go away. There’s no magic pill you can take to clear stress; there’s no switch you can flick to turn it off. You must take action to reduce it.
If you don’t perform techniques to reduce the stress level you go to bed with, that is the stress level you will wake up with in the morning.
Tried and true techniques to reduce the effects of stress
1) Movement – do some form of exercise every day.
A 30-minute walk is all it takes to reduce your stress levels. Walking can lower your cortisol levels by up to 50%.
2) Breathe – engage in conscious breathing.
Lay down or get yourself in a comfortable, relaxed position. Take 10 deep belly breaths. Put one hand on your tummy, the other on your chest. Breathe deep into your belly and feel the hand on your belly rise as the hand on your chest remains still. Repeat this 10 times.
3) Essential oils – breathe them in.
Essential Oils are amazing in reducing stress and can be used in conjunction with the breathing technique above. According to Kim Morrison (Aromatherapist and founder of Twenty8 Essentials) Sandalwood Pure Essential Oil helps soothe nervous tension and anxiety. You can add one drop to a tissue and put in down your top while doing the breathing exercise, or add 4 drops Sandalwood, 2 drops Geranium, 3 drops Lime or Orange to a vaporiser or diffuser to enhance your stress relief while breathing.
4) Connection – give someone a hug or kiss!
A simple hug can reduce our stress levels by 15-20%. When we make a physical connection we increase our levels of oxytocin, this helps to lower our blood pressure which in turn reduces stress and anxiety. Magic!
5) Laughter – find a way to laugh.
Watch a funny movie, go to a show, catch up with friends. It doesn’t matter how you bring laughter into your life, just find a way. The more laughter, the better. It reduces cortisol, adrenaline, and dopamine and it increases the production of serotonin and endorphins which reduce our stress levels.
6) Seek help – take action and book in for a Kinesiology Session!
Kinesiology is an amazing tool that will aid in eliminating stress from your life. The body has the amazing capability of healing itself; kinesiology will help defuse stress by clearing blocked energy within your body. Remember the importance of self-care. Be a doer, take action and seek help. You’re worth it!
Take a moment to make a plan
At certain times during my life, my stress levels have been off the charts. That’s for sure!
I now have the tools in place to recognise when I'm stressed. I understand the signals my body is sending me, and I know just what to do.
If I need something more than movement, belly breathing, essential oils, connection, and laughter I book myself straight in for a kinesiology session. In fact, as part of my self-care routine, I have monthly kinesiology sessions ensuring my mind, body and soul are in balance and eliminating the risk of going down that downward stress spiral. I’ve been down there before, and I have made a promise to myself: I’m never going back there again. Not ever!