How the Body Responds to Stress
Stress isn’t just a feeling. It’s an actual release of hormones that your body produces when it’s met with a challenge. The number one stress hormone is cortisol.
Think of the hormone cortisol like a chemical messenger. When you’re in a stressful situation, cortisol tells your immune system to gear up for a challenge. Your immune system responds by producing inflammation, and then cortisol signals your immune system to calm down when the danger has passed.
This system works really well when you encounter acute stress that happens suddenly and then passes. But too many of us are dealing with chronic stress: constant sleep deprivation, poor diets, long hours at work, problems in our relationships, the list goes on and on. When you have constant stressors in your life, your immune system never really gets to turn off. Your inflammatory immune response is activated for too long and eventually goes rogue, attacking your own bodily tissues. Pretty soon, your stress hormones try to suppress the response but go overboard. So how do we reduce this stress response?
Adopt daily stress-relieving strategies
Our bodies were designed to handle acute stress. However, constant stress is damaging to your body, mind and spirit.
Create space for self-care: This is critically important. You need down time and time to refresh and fill your own tank to keep you healthy. When you are constantly taking care of others, giving your energy to work and not taking care of you, your immune system is on overload. Self care is not a luxury, it is a necessity for optimal health.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Get a massage:
Therapeutic massage is not just for birthdays. It is an important component in activating the relaxation response and inviting your body to heal. Healing only takes place during the “Rest and Digest” (Parasympathetic response ) of your nervous system. Massage shifts your body from the stress response to the relaxation response and invites your body to heal and let go of stress held in the body and the mind. To book an appointment with me, just click on book an appointment.
When you find yourself overwhelmed with stress, take a moment to connect with your breath. Concentrate on breathing in and out until your anxiety has calmed. Centering prayer and mindfulness meditation are wonderful ways to stop the stress response and bring the mind back to the present moment.
Go for a walk outside
Just moving your body can help you literally “walk off” your stress. Breathing in the fresh air, enjoying the sunshine and the birds singing and feeling your body move brings a new perspective to any stressful situation.
Enjoy a Hobby
What do you enjoy? Knitting, crafts, photography? Whatever feeds your creative side that is enjoyable shifts that fight or flight energy into a creative way to process it.
Amazingly, half an hour of listening to music can reduce your cortisol levels. Choose something soothing and relaxing and notice how your body relaxes.
When you feel over whelmed by the day or an event, take a moment to shift into gratitude. Write down 5 things you are thankful for. You might even find that the situation that is causing your stress is an agent for bringing more gratitude into your awareness. Gratitude shifts the focus. You can not be mad and grateful at the same time.
Try yoga or stretching. Just getting up from your chair and stretching the body for 10-15 minutes can do a world of good.
One of my favorite things to do seasonally for my own self care is to schedule a retreat by myself. I go to a lovely place called the Well of Mercy where I take 2-3 days to decompress, regroup and get centered again. I try to go twice a year. When I return home I find that I have a renewed clarity on items that have been on my mind, a renewed gratitude for my life and am ready to give more love to my family and energy to my clients. Find a sacred space that speaks to you. Your family and your health will thank you!
Shine On friends!