Stress and Your Wellbeing
By Claudia Jones
Stress has been a buzzword in the developed world for decades now; as the pace of life has quickened most of the world over, so stress levels have increased. The word stress can be defined as, ‘a mentally or emotionally disruptive or upsetting condition occurring in response to adverse external influences and capable of affecting physical health’ or ‘a state of extreme difficulty, pressure, or strain’. Of course there are periods in a person’s life when unavoidable stresses can have a devastating impact on wellbeing, such as the loss of a loved one, a relationship break-up, redundancy or major surgery. However, much stress is avoidable as it is brought about through lifestyle choices such as the foods we eat, the career we choose, the relationships we have. While minimal stress can be helpful in some situations, prolonged periods of living under pressure take their toll on the system, eventually causing physical or mental breakdown. Your day to day lifestyle determines how your body will handle stress over time; poor diet, substance abuse, too little sleep and rest, or piling on the pressures over a prolonged period has a deeply negative impact on your mental, emotional and physical health.
Symptom of Stress
The symptoms of stress are many and varied, some of them arising at the onset of stress and others over a period of time. Here are some of the ways that stress can manifest in your system:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Muscular tension
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
- Chronic Fatigue syndrome
- Weight gain
- Food allergies
- Hair loss
- Skin problems such as eczema
- Acidity in the body
- Irregular menstruation
- Lowered immunity
- Increased risk of stroke
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Increased risk of diabetes
The Stress Response
Your autonomic nervous system is made up of two parts that plays a role in how you handle stress.
The sympathetic nervous system is your ‘fight or flight’ response to danger. It is active when you need to be alert and ready to act. When this system is activated your heart rate and blood pressure increases, more glucose moves into the bloodstream, and your heart pumps blood to the arms and legs preparing for action.
The parasympathetic nervous system is the body’s anti-stress response; it helps you to relax and activates the body’s ‘rest and digest’ response. When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated your heartbeat slows, blood pressure decreases and blood is sent to your digestive system rather than the limbs. You feel much calmer when this system is functioning.
One approach to combating stress is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system as frequently as possible that can be achieved through simple breathwork practices, gentle yoga asana, sitting quietly or taking savasana.
Simple tips to reduce the impact of stress on your health:
By incorporating some of the suggestions below you can help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, the body’s natural anti-stress response.
Take adequate rest
- Makes sure you get enough sleep
- Lie down and rest during your work breaks
- Take regular savasana
- Sit quietly for some time every day
Incorporate yoga practices into your daily routine
- Gentle asana
- Simple breathwork techniques such as ujjayi breath, sitali and ujjayi
- Sit for meditation 10 -20 mins morning or evening is enough
Take regular exercise
- Short bursts of vigorous exercise can help to reduce tension- for example dancing, sprinting or swimming
- Follow with calming activities such as walking, swimming slowly, gentle yoga asana
- Organize your schedule so there is plenty of time for you to relax
- Minimize stressful situations through careful planning
- Take negative people/relationships out of your life
- Increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables
- Eliminate processed carbohydrates (white bread, white pasta, white rice) and refined sugars and replace with whole foods
- Eliminate caffeine as it activates the nervous system
- Take regular meals
- Laugh often
- Do something fun each day
- Relax in a steam room
- Take regular oil massages or give yourself a massage 10 minute every day, after a warm bath or shower. Using warm sesame oil is ideal.
- Join our Samahita Retreat De-stress Program where you will enjoy healthy food, rejuvenating ayurvedic therapies, de-stress classes, yoga, breathwork and meditation sessions and relaxation in a nurturing, healing environment.