Welcome to July! And, warmer weather! YAY! At Last! No more stressing out about the cold. Maybe I can actually put my fleece lined jeans away this week!?
Speaking of stress, Dr. Sarah McKay is a neurobiologist that I follow. She recently made a good point about stress in the body that I’d like to share and discuss today.
She suggested that we redefine “stressors” as: threats, challenges, or opportunities, and, that our so-called “stress-response” is the neural and physiological response to threats, challenges, or opportunities.
As I’ve talked about in previous posts, our body needs the hormone cortisol for proper functioning. Just not the huge amounts that we seem to release on a daily basis these days.
She is correct in that there are times when “stress” is not a bad thing. For instance, getting married is stressful – planning the wedding, deciding how much money to spend, etc., but it’s not always an unpleasant stress, or, distress. Weddings are big, but joyful, occasions.
Chronic distress does, however, have a negative effect on our physical and mental health. Distress is a neural and physiological response to a threat that lasts too long and can cause autoimmune diseases, migraines, obesity, muscle tension and backache, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, hypertension, and stroke.
We can develop healthier ways of responding to those real or imagined events that cause distress. Meditation is one of the tools that we can use to mitigate distress. For those of you who have difficulty meditating, there are other tools that we can use in the moment.
- PRACTICE THE RULE OF 3. Look out your window and name three things you see. Then, stop and name three sounds you hear. Finally, take a moment to notice and wiggle three parts of your body. I like this one because it brings us back into the present moment instead of worrying about tomorrow or next week, or re-hashing yesterday.
- “BE” IN NATURE. Take a walk or hike, or simply step out into your garden for a few minutes. Make sure that you listen to any birds that may be singing, or bees buzzing. Inhale deeply and smell the flowers or boxwoods or pine trees. Hug a tree if you can! Just take some deep breaths and enjoy all the beauty of a blue sky with white fluffy clouds, or a stream bubbling past your road. It only takes about five minutes before you begin to relax and breathe deeper.
- BREATHE, GRASSHOPPER, BREATHE. Simple deep-breathing is great to release some stress from your body. Brahmari Breath is an easy and effective breathing practice that you might want to learn. It’s simple, and it releases endorphins to counter those distress hormones!
- FIND WAYS THAT YOU RELEASE ENDORPHINS (FEEL GOOD HORMONES). What makes you smile or feel good? Maybe dancing makes you happy, or singing, or listening to comedy, or baking muffins to bring to a homebound neighbor. Find what works for you and use it!
- RELAX, MUSCLE BY MUSCLE. In progressive muscle relaxation, you tense up particular muscles, hold for about ten seconds, then relax them. Starting with the muscles in your legs and gradually work your way up your body. Here is a recording where you can do this with me whenever you feel the need.
Best of Health,