Manage Self; not Stress

What is Stress?

Though humans have evolved from primitive ways of living to an urban lifestyle, our biological reaction to a threat situation has not undergone much change. When a threat situation is sensed, perceived, or interpreted; a chain reaction involving a series of biological reactions is triggered in the body. The result is a release of ‘Stress hormones’ called adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones are meant to be released in the form of short bursts and that is fine, however, modern stressors are different from primitive stressors e.g. threat of coming face-to-face with a wild animal can be short-lived as one will outrun the other sooner or later, the situation will ease out rather quickly. Compare this to modern life stressors where working hard continuously in order to climb the corporate ladder or to retain the job or position or having to live in a lonely environment due to social distancing, can get prolonged over a longer period of time.

Stress and Modern Lifestyle

Modern lifestyle has something simmering all the time and Adrenaline and Cortisol that were meant to be there in short bursts for a short duration, are now present in smaller quantities but all the time. This is extremely harmful.

Net-net, our reaction to stressors may have been a gift from nature and our ancestors but we are yet to adapt it to the challenges of modern lifestyle. We need to adopt certain tools and techniques that will keep stress hormones in balance.

How Stress Hormones impact our bodies?

The body’s stress-response is supposed to be self-limiting and should subside once the Stress inducing situation normalizes. This means that Cortisol and Adrenaline levels need to be balanced at all times normalizing the heart rate and blood pressure besides other vitals. But when there is a continuous feeling of busyness, worry, and tension, it has a far-reaching impact on our psychological and physical health and the effects can manifest in the form of many forms of dis-ease.

Higher levels of Cortisol in the bloodstream can cause the following:

  • High blood pressure

  • Muscle weakness

  • Increased levels of thirst and urge to urinate often

  • Mood swings, feeling irritable or low

  • Rapid weight gain on the face and abdomen

  • Osteoporosis

  • Bruises or stretch marks appearing on the skin

  • Decreased sex drive

  • Irregular period

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Tiredness

  • Foggy brain function

  • Frequent infections

Lower levels of Cortisol in the bloodstream can cause the following:

  • Dizziness

  • Muscle weakness

  • Gradual weight loss

  • Changes in mood

  • Skin turning darker

  • Low blood pressure

  • Impact gut microbiome

Do we have a way out of Stress response?

The nervous system that triggers Adrenaline and Cortisol in the bloodstream is known as the sympathetic nervous system. The good news is we have been gifted with a fantastic mechanism in the form of our Parasympathetic nervous system too which works in exactly the opposite direction and works towards restoring peace and harmony in our bodies and mind. We only need to understand the techniques to jump-start the Parasympathetic response.

Key techniques to trigger the Parasympathetic Nervous System

Meditation 

We may have little control over the situation, but we can control our response to it. Meditation is one of the most effective ways to restore inner peace and balance. With consistent practice, you will observe that even though situations have not changed, the way you respond to a situation changes dramatically. Meditation helps a great deal in restoring the nervous system, which helps repair the body and prevents the spread of damage to the Body. Some of the tangible benefits of meditation are:

  • Gives a new perspective on stress-causing situations

  • Helps develop resilience to manage your stress

  • Increases the sense of self-awareness

  • Helps to become mindful to the present

  • Reducing negative emotions and inculcates a sense of joy

  • Improves creativity and visualization

  • An increased level of patience and tolerance

It is observed that a daily practice of meditation for a few minutes helps to reduce the intensity of Stress and makes staying calm a second nature.

Movement

Taking up a cautious physical Movement regularly is one of the best ways to relax the body and mind. This can be gymming, tai chi, swimming, cycling, sport requiring movement, walking, or online Yoga. Here is what we need to do:

  1. Have a fitness goal like – weight loss, building muscle, working on the core, building stamina, learning a new sport, etc.

  2. Keep an exercise log at the end of each session. This can be a note on your mobile or a diary briefly mention the duration of your workout, what did you achieve with the workout, any new thought or idea you came across that day. Be creative, concise, and keep it customized and personal.

  3. Make it a point to do physical activity at least 3 hours a week.

  4. Be fully aware of the movements during physical activity. Be one with your body and mind and give it your 100%.

  5. Always start the session with resolve and end with a sense of gratitude and achievement.

  6. Let someone close to you be aware of your resolve and let them nudge you when you hit a low spot and don’t feel like taking the physical activity that day.

  7. Keep experimenting with new ideas to break monotonicity.

The Idea behind Meditation and Movement is to train your mind to be in the moment and connect with your body. Being mindful is essential to calm yourself. It is often observed that stress reaction is triggered by thoughts of a particular situation that happened in the past or about something that is yet to take place. Remember past and future do not exist at present and procrastinating continuously about them keeps triggering the Stress hormones in the body in small or large quantities. The result is a speedy deterioration in health.

There is a lot more that can be done to have a stress-free lifestyle. Here is a list for your reference:

  1. Sleep well

  2. Eat well

  3. Have someone to talk your heart out to

  4. Choose an affirmation and stick to it

  5. Look for ways to laugh and make others laugh

  6. Appreciate those around you

  7. Be thankful for what you have

  8. Take time out for fun activity

  9. Have a pet

  10. Travel to new places

  11. Avoid spending too much time on mobile and television

  12. Cut down on smoking and alcohol

The rewards of making these small changes to the lifestyle and becoming aware of the Stress signal of your mind and body will not only add years to your life but will add life to those years.

Let us resolve to be healthy, happy and content.

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