Stress and Your Health
Stress is sneaky. Sometimes you don’t even know that you’re feeling it until you turn your head and your neck hurts, or you feel a tension headache coming on.
The truth is, some stress is normal (and even good) … but chronic stress can do a real number on your body.
It can wreak havoc on your hormones, making you gain weight (especially unhealthy belly fat).
And it can also take a major toll on your health, paving the way for illness and disease.
It's never been a big secret that stress causes illness, but until recently, it was never clear HOW it played a role.
Stress & Inflammation
Research has demonstrated that "chronic psychological stress" can affect your body's ability to regulate its inflammatory response. That’s because one of your body’s key stress hormones – cortisol – also plays a role in controlling inflammation.
As you likely know, inflammation is associated with practically every disease process affecting our bodies!
Inflammation has been tied to impaired immunity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and more.
Is Stress Making You Sick?
Over time, having too many stress hormones in your system is linked with increased inflammation … and all the problems associated with it!
What can you do about it?
Most of us have never learned how to use the powers within our own bodies to cope with stress. In fact, many of us were taught to ignore it, in hopes that it would just magically go away.
“Pushing through” is often the very WORST thing you can do to get through a tough period, since it can keep your stress hormones elevated.
If you're not careful, feeling stressed can even become your new "normal," so you don’t feel like yourself unless you’re feeling the pressure.
Unfortunately, this is the case for way too many of us!
The good news is, you can take back control by learning some easy techniques that will calm your body, ease your mind, and lift your spirit.
Here are some techniques and tips to help you feel less stressed.
Breathe Away Stress
Your breath is an incredibly powerful tool to combat stress. It's so important that it's worth taking several short breathing breaks each day.
Deep breathing resets your autonomic nervous system - the system that controls your heartbeat and blood pressure - to a calmer state.
It only takes 4-5 minutes to feel more relaxed and less stressed!
I'm including 3 techniques to help you to get started with your breathing practice - one for deep breathing, one for relaxation, and one of increased energy.
Shallow breathing a stress go together. Retraining you body to take deeper breaths will help you feel more relaxed. Make time for belly breathing sessions every week. You can do this lying down or seated.
- Sit comfortably in a chair, relax your shoulders, head, and neck.
- Place one hand on your belly just below the rib cage, and the other hand on your upper chest.
- Breathe in slowly through your nose, feeling your stomach move out against your hand. The hand against your chest shouldn't move.
- Next, draw you stomach in as you exhale through your mouth.
- Repeat for 3-5 minutes.
This calming technique has been used by Navy SEALS, first responders, nurses, and teachers. It involves controlling both inhaling and exhaling, as well as holding your breath. It's called Box Breathing because you do each part of the breath for an equal amount of time (4 counts), as if you are breathing around the sides of a square.
- To start, sit up straight in a chair, feet flat on the floor.
- Next, slowly exhale through your mouth as much air as you possibly can, for a total or 4 counts.
- Now, hold your breath out for 4 counts
- Then, gently and slowly breathe in through your nose for 4 counts.
- Now, hold your breath in for 4 counts.
For a full session of box breathing, repeat the cycle for a total of 5 times through.
This powerful breathing technique will simultaneously leave you feeling energized and relaxed. It's normal to feel a little light-headed or tingly when you do it.
- Sit comfortable and take 30 quick, deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth
- Next, take a slow, deep breath in, and then exhale, holding until you need to breath in again.
- Inhale again, as deeply as you can, and hold it for 10 seconds
Repeat 3 times.
How Else Can You Reduce Stress?
Stress is basically a feeling in your body that results from a thought you have in your brain about a circumstance in your life.
That feeling of stress leads you to take actions, which ultimately lead to the results you experience in your life.
Watch your thoughts, they become your words; watch you words, they become your actions; watch your actions, they become your habits; watch your habits, they become your character; watch your character, it becomes your destiny - Lao Tsu
While the circumstances in life are beyond our control for the most part, our thoughts, feelings, actions, and ultimately, our results are totally within our control. Learning to use this truth allows us to take back our power over "stressful" situations.
If you're interested in learning more about how to feel better and create the results you want, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org