Stress has a very bad name in our society. However, we need stress in our lives. Stress activates the fight or flight response in our bodies which is essential for our survival. It also helps us feel stimulated and engaged in our activities.
However, when we keep a constant state of stress in our bodies, keeping the fight or flight response constantly on, our bodies can suffer dramatic consequences. The damaging stress for us is chronic stress.
If your body experiences chronic stress, “something happens that can have long-term negative effects. The adrenal glands secrete corticoids, which inhibit digestion, reproduction, growth, tissue repair, and the responses of the immune and inflammatory systems” (The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook) In other words, all the systems needed for your body to stay healthy start to shut down.
If your immune system is down, you are not protected against illnesses and external attacks by viruses. If you have chronic stress, your body can deteriorate rapidly. So what can you do to prevent this from happening:
- Check how stressed you are: Our bodies need stability to remain calm. If you experienced major changes in your life recently, you are more likely to develop stress.
- Find the root of your stress: If you find the root of your stress, you can find ways to alleviate or eliminate it. A lot of stress is self-created by our mind. Awareness is essential and body awareness is imperative as stress manifests physically in your body.
- Learn tools to calm your body: Relaxation exercises, meditation (both still and moving meditation, including tai chi and qigong), and mindfulness can help you activate the relaxation response.
- Persevere: A lot of stress is self-created by your mind. It might take time to become aware of how you stress yourself. It might also take time to master some of the tools that will help you feel more relaxed. But it can also be a lot of fun, especially if you join a regular class.
“I started using your muscle tense/relax exercise and it helps enormously, which I think demonstrates that simple things can have a big impact. One major change is that my sleep has improved dramatically, and as a long term insomniac it’s wonderful to wake refreshed most days.” (Anne, Dawlish, 2017)
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