For a human being trying to live a healthy life, stress management is a worthwhile and important goal.
And if you are paying an ounce of attention to anything going on in the world today, it's plain to see why learning to manage your (inevitable) stress makes solid, practical sense.
I've found the most direct path to allowing a calm state of mind into your everyday life is breath training - using your inhales and exhales intentionally to send messages to your brain to either calm down or amp up.
My favorite Calming Down breath is a 5-3-7 count - inhale for 5, hold for 3, exhale for 7. More on that in a bit.
The other quick-fire ways you manage your stress is through movement and nutrition. There are about a billion studies on how and why exercise reduces stress, and as for nutrition, it's not only the foods you choose to eat, but also WHO YOU ARE BEING when you eat them.
You can eat the healthiest meal on the planet, but if you eat it in a stressed out, anxious state, your digestion is dramatically diminished.
Have you ever had the experience of eating a full meal and still being hungry, like you just can't get satisfied? That's a good sign that your stress response is turned on, and your body isn't assimilating nutrients.
I have a trick to help with that.
From a scientific standpoint, stress causes the salivary enzyme content in the mouth to reduce...so the breakdown of proteins, fat, and carbs is impaired in the stomach...and blood flow to the small intestine decreases as much as fourfold... which translates into decreased assimilation of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
To review, our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is responsible for digestive activity. There are two branches of the ANS: the Parasympathetic and the Sympathetic. When one is active, the other is dormant.
When the Parasympathetic side, or "rest and digest," is activated, our metabolic power increases, and an optimal state for digestion is reached.
When the Sympathetic side - "fight or flight"- is in charge, our stress response heightens and our digestion shuts down.
The class example is that if a lion was chasing you after lunch, you would not be concerned with digesting your sandwich, you'd be concerned with saving your life, so the Sympathetic nervous system would act to effectively shut down your digestions, directing blood flow away from your stomach and towards your arms and legs instead for quick moving, and to your brain for quick thinking.
It's brilliant, this inherent mechanism that's in place for our survival.
And the truth is, most of us aren't confronting angry lions on our lunch hour.
But here's the thing:
...we do encounter stress, and on a physiological level, your body doesn't differentiate between a lion chasing you and your boss being a jerk, or getting tense in a traffic jam, or having a spat with your neighbor.
One is life-threatening, the other is not, but guess what...in your body's response, they are the same. They both trigger the body to shut off digestion and store fat, decreasing your metabolic power.
This is where that 5-3-7 breath comes in - do it ten times, or for about two minutes, and you can effectively switch your nervous system's state of being.
We each hold the ability to change our state of mind, and we also have the ability to affect our energetic vibration.
We are the ones who get to decide that!
So it's one thing to recognize that you hold the key to the ways you allow stress to affect you.
It's another thing to decide what to do about it.
What your stress management actually looks like is entirely up to you - after all, we all have different things that help us feel calmer, steadier, a bit more balanced, a bit less frazzled.
You might choose to mitigate the stress by:
What's your favorite form of stress management? I'm interested in knowing if you're interested in sharing! xo
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