Stress is a constant factor in our modern life. With increased demands at work, social and personal challenges, extensive to do lists, pressures and time constraints, stressors have pushed our body’s equilibrium maintaining mechanisms over the tipping point of self-regulation.
In other words modern life makes us sick due to distress. Distress is the person’s inability to cope and the psychoneurophysiological adaptation processes fail to return to a dynamic homeostasis (allostasis).
Chronic stress leads to structural and functional changes in your brain, increases the ageing process of your DNA and leads to anxiety, depression and many other psychiatric disorders on top of the more known stress related ailments of back, neck and shoulder pain, digestive and cardiovascular problems.
Like a thief in the night, stress robs you from your health and wellbeing.
The good news is that health is in your hands.
You are holding in your hands all that is needed to help yourself and others to regulate stress and promote health.
Stress on a biological level is when the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system is triggered to get you ready to fight and flight and the parasympathetic branch is inhibited. This binary – on and off mechanism – was well adapted for the mostly physical challenges our prehistoric ancestors had to face but is not so suited for what modern life brings along. Unfortunately our biology hasn’t really had the time to evolve. Hence that stress can also be described as the conflict between biology and culture.
Inhibition of the parasympathetic nervous system means that your relaxation, recuperation and regeneration response and your digestion are suppressed. Chronic stress or sympathetic (over)load thus means constant inhibition of all the processes required for health and healing to manifest.
To give health a chance to express itself the solution is very straight forward start implementing behaviour that activates the parasympathetic nervous system to promote the R-Responses. No it will not take all ills away but you’ll be increasing your health, wellbeing and become much more resilient and happy.
Health is in your hands so if you consider health important then give your health a helping hand. How? Well as you are unique that question is a really difficult to answer and can only be generalised. But think about what your body needs to really relax, recuperate and regenerate. Sometimes it might be that it is just by doing nothing and not feeling guilty about it. However don’t combine it with watching a horror movie that gets you on the edge of your seat. Think and analyse all those things you say you should do but don’t when it comes to health promoting behaviour. What upsets you but are you still doing to please others? What’s your mindset like? Work we all have to do and changing jobs isn’t always an option but how can you improve the current situation? Over what aspect of your social or personal life or work don’t you have control? How can you gain more control over that situation? All of these are important elements to look at if stress has gotten under your skin. Yes it takes time and yes you might need some help with it. Don’t and…
But before you begin the introspection start to practice a breathing exercise 3 times a day for 3 minutes with a cycle of 10 seconds. Breathing believe it or not is the best stress regulator you have control over. On my website you can download a free copy of ‘Reaset: The return of Ease’ with information on how the breathe your stress away and it has a free mp3 to help you drift into ease. You can also listen to the podcast ‘Health Matters’ for more tips on health promoting ideas.
Tom Meyers, (article first published in Together Magazine Feb 2014)