Fight or flight…

ImageStress.  We all have it. We all hate it. We would all be happier and healthier without it.

We can take steps to reducing the stressors in our day-to-day lives, but to some extent stress is inevitable and will remain out of our control.  What we can control, however, is how we individually manage and handle stress physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Stress causes physical changes in the body.  The reactions our bodies have to stress are meant to help us persevere through difficult times. In times of duress our body’s sympathetic nervous system starts running the show.  This is commonly referred to as the “fight or flight” response. If we perceive a stress, such as…oh I don’t know…a bear chasing us, our body would physically start preparing us for fight or flight.  Our hormones shift, our heart rate increases, and we physically brace for the storm ahead.

This response is a good thing, if the stress we’re talking about is life threatening.  We need that boost during truly dangerous moments.  But what if the stress is not life threatening, like most of what we deal with on a day-to-day basis?  Trying to get everything done in time, juggling schedules, handling interactions with people around us, worrying about life issues, etc… There are a multitude of worries, thoughts, concerns, insecurities, interactions and the like that beef up our stress level every day which are not life threatening. Our bodies handle them all in a similar fashion as it would the impending doom of going head-to-head with that previously mentioned bear.

Physically we brace for an attack.  We hold muscle tension in our shoulders and other places around the body. We often acquire a hunched posture.  Do you ever notice yourself wearing your shoulders as earrings??  Mentally we become fatigued, as there is always a stimulus present, begging for attention.  And I’m sure you’re all too aware of how stress affects you emotionally.  So all the way around it makes changes in our bodies…and when this is a chronic reaction to a chronic level of stress these changes become detrimental.

So what can we do about it?  Aside from minimizing the stressors in our lives, we can try to handle the stress in a more positive manner.  Stress is a beast that doesn’t like to be ignored.  First and foremost, allowing ourselves to recognize the stress and acknowledge that it is present is the first step towards releasing it.  Once we have mastered that feat, we can find outlets for the relief of stress.  Being a yoga minded person, I highly recommend the physical and mental practices of yoga as a great way of releasing stress. But in reality, any form of exercise makes for great stress relief.

This week try practicing corpse pose routinely to help you manage your stress.  Corpse pose or dead man’s posture is usually held at the end of a yoga practice session.  It represents the death or end of your yoga practice. It is a time for you to relax and take stock of where you are in the present moment.  Click Here for information on corpse pose.

As you lay in corpse pose, with every inhale call to mind a stressor.  Something that you know causes you physical and emotional stress and as you exhale feel that stress melt away.  Then when you’ve made it through the various stressors allow yourself to relax in this place where you have no stress.  Feel the tingling warmth of relaxation spread up from your feet all the way through the top of your head.  Feel yourself sink heavy into your mat or the floor.  Resist the chatter of the mind; focus on relaxing your body and your breath.  Give yourself some time in this place of no stress at least once a day throughout this week.  Maybe it is right before bed or right away in the morning, but allow yourself the time.  This practice will help you to better acknowledge the stressors that are present in your life.  Once you are aware of the stress you can mentally sort through it; picking and choosing that which serves you.  If it doesn’t then you can let it go…

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