When life turns you upside down - 4 simple and effective tips for dealing with stress
We all know that stress is damaging for physical and mental health, especially when it continues long-term. When we’re under stress hormones flood into the system such as adrenaline and cortisol to help prepare the body for action. A long time ago this stress response (the fight-flight-freeze mechanism) kept us safe and when the danger was gone we would release and let go.
In the wild, for example, when an animal comes into danger the stress response comes up, the animal takes action (such as as fighting or fleeing) and then when safe it will shake continuously until the adrenaline is out of its body and then it rests.
In our modern society however, stress responses occur all too frequently and at things that represent no physical danger, such as an email from a boss or running late. We’ve lost touch with our primal release mechanisms and the stress stays in our system, either slowly releasing or perhaps just being built upon by more stress hormones.
So what can we do...? An obvious and very helpful way to release stress out of our system would be to do some cardio based physical exercise, such as a going for a short run or perhaps boxercise. However, this isn’t always possible or desired for many people so there are quieter and less physical ways for us to release the stress hormones and calm the body back down again.
Get outside in nature - ground your energy by going for a walk in the woods, walking barefoot on a beach or if you’re nowhere near either of these then just find some grass, earth, sand or even concrete and go plant your feet on it. The slightly negative charge of the earth will flow into the body and begin to improve the balance of the sympathetic (stress) and parasympathetic (relaxation) nervous system.
Breathe - close your eyes and notice your breath, it will probably be shallow and high up in the body. As you begin to notice your breath try to feel it gently slowing down. Perhaps take an inhale through the nose to the count of 2, hold to the count of 4 and exhale slowly through the mouth to the count of 6 or 8. Your body should begin to feel calmer quite quickly. The longer the exhale, the more you work with the relaxing and renewing side of the nervous system.
Take a restorative pose such as Legs up the Wall pose, Supported Bridge pose or Savasana. Simply put these terms into a search engine and you’ll easily see pictures of them come up. Legs up the wall or on a chair is simple, lie on your back and elevate and support the legs, Supported Bridge pose can be done with a cushion or two as well as a block and Savasana is accessible for more or less everyone, with a cushion under the knees for extra support. These poses have been designed to restore and calm the system, simply lie back and breathe, noticing your exhalation beginning to extend. As they are supportive poses they are also suitable for higher blood pressure too.
Slow it down - remember the wonderful phrase, “I am a human being, not a human doing”. Take this to heart! Are you trying to do too much, are you stressing yourself out unnecessarily? The answer is often yes for many people. What can you let go of, what do you really not need to do? Be honest with yourself...are you someone who always runs around after other people and their needs? Remember that a glass that is half empty cannot fill another glass up without draining itself.
Founder of Yoga2Talk Therapy