Stress that you notice and also the one that goes unnoticed, 3 tricks to manage it
Very often we do not think that we are stressed, however we do not feel right. Stress is not always clearly noticed and it is a threat to our well being.
1- What is stress? Do I need some technique to manage stress?
Every emotion has a physical reflect on our bodies. We are not very used to noticing in our bodies emotions such as anger, happiness … stress. But nevertheless they do reflect in our “flesh and bones”.
In fact emotions and feelings are ok to be felt. We might like them or not, but they appear and disappear constantly. The problem arises when emotions get stuck and they do not disappear as they are supposed to do.
This is what happens with chronic stress. Stress is an “adaptive emotion”, this means it is there to help us adapt to a change. So far ….. it is fine.
The problem arises when the stress becomes chronic and we are constantly fighting ghosts. Here is when we need to implement some stress management techniques
2- How stress affects our body and our brain:
The reaction of stress is caused by a number of hormones that work together to help us escape a dangerous situation.
Imagine that you were being attacked by a tiger: your eyes would see the tiger, communicate the info to the brain and this would trigger the stress response: either fight, flight of freeze.
The response is what we see, but how it is produced is what interests us now.
The brain would activate your adrenal glands which will produce three stress hormones: adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. They are there to activate our organism, they will make the heart bit faster, retire blood from the internal organs to concentrate them in the extremities so that we can run, increase our lung capacity … Our normal thinking process gets kidnapped and we concentrate on scaping the menace . We get into survival mode.
Imagine that you run from the tiger and climb a tree, in some time the tiger will probably get tired and leave you alone. Menace gone, time to go back to a normal situation. Stress is the perfect response …
But what happens if it is not a tiger what is stressing you? Imagine that you are stressed by your boss’s attitude or by excessive work or continuous running around doing your chores …. Then the stress response will be activated but will probably last too long because in this case there is not a clear end to the stressful situation, it will probably not really end.
This kind of stress will affect our internal organs: heart, lungs, blood vessels … that are overcharged reacting to a continuous menace, but as it requires so much from the whole body (remember the body deviates resources to our extremities?) it will also affect our gut-system, immune system, skin, brain ….
Our body is getting ready to face a menace and getting resources from other parts of our body that are not necessary for immediate survival. We do not need to think, digest defend ourselves from bacteria …
So what is good at a certain moment is not good if kept for a long time. Our whole body and brain will suffer from it.
You can take a look at this video that explains in a short and simple way how our body reacts:
3- So now, what?
I cannot tell you what works best for you but I will give you what has worked for me in the last years and I hope you find it useful.
In meditation you learn to stay in the present moment using an “anchor” for your attention. Generally that “ anchor” is our breath.
There are many ways in which you can learn to meditate but if you are interested in learning more about this have a look at the MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) web by Jon Kabat Zinn. (http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/).
You can also start by giving yourself the present of a daily 5 minute meditation. You can download one recorded by me here:
2- Work out:
Sports will give you endorphins that will lift your moods. We often go to the gym, run or swim just to loose some weight but sports, and specially outdoor sports will help you produce what is known as “happiness hormones”.
Do not start by a strenuous exercise. Just ten minutes a day or running, cycling or simply walking can do wonders. The important thing here ar the four letters that say “ a day”, yes regular daily exercise is more powerful against stress than concentrated exercise. If you thing that doing nothing during the week and doing a lot of sports at weekends will do …. it won’t. Everyday (or almost) is the key.
3- Change your thoughts:
Much of our stress is created by our own thoughts. A tiger attacking you is not a thought, is a fact but if we keep recreating the situation in our mind we can also be rising a stress response in our system that we do not really need.
It is not easy to change our own thoughts because we do not seem to have any control over them, but we all have the choice about the kind of thought that we pay attention to in our brain and we can also make new thoughts that are more beneficial to us.
A difficult situation can be seen as a problem or a difficulty and it can also be seen as a challenge. Train your mind to see things in the way that is more useful to you. Also if you meditate regularly it becomes easier to see our thoughts and change them if necessary.
Coping with stress is not something that you will master in a day or just by reading this post. It is your decision to view situations as problems or as undesirable situations that you can change. Train your mind, move your body and decide who is going to be the master of your life
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