Yes, we all face stress everyday, but how well we respond to it is something that can be learned. Actually, stress is something that appears to be out of your control. Our goal then is to learn healthy tools to adapt to stressors such as:
- Marital discord
- Unhappy work situations
- Lack of adequate financial resources
- Problems with your children
- Working too much
- Dealing with health challenges
- Chronic pain
- Fear of loss
- And many other external factors that are beyond personal control
Stress has an impact on your physical, mental and emotional states.
When we examine the human body, we see that stress has a huge impact on all organ systems, especial the nervous system. Our autonomic nervous system (ANS) is like a central processing unit made up of the sympathetic branch and the parasympathetic branch that plays an important role in how your body performs under stress.
The sympathetic branch is your defense system, called the fight-or-flight system. When it is stimulated (like the gas pedal in your car that helps you speed up), it directs more blood to the muscles and brain. It is your survival mechanism. When the gas pedal is pushed, your heart races, increases blood pressure and shuts down blood to the other organs in the body. Under undue stress you may lose your appetite. When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, you may feel a rush of energy (sometimes called an adrenal rush), but eventually, you run out of “gas” or energy and you feel fatigue. If this system is always “on”, there is a negative, tearing down effect on your body.
For proper balance, the parasympathetic system is concerned with slowing down (putting on the ‘brakes’, giving your body time to heal and regenerate. The nerves of this system stimulate digestion, elimination and the immune system. The parasympathetic system is turned on by rest, relaxation and a positive, upbeat, happy attitude towards life.
Like your car, the gas pedal moves you forward into action, but you can’t keep pressing the pedal; eventually, there comes a time to put on the brakes, slow down, and finally come to a stop. These two systems are antagonistic (work against each other). Balancing these two systems is very important to a healthy life. Neither should be dominate. In our western, fast-paced culture more people are sympathetic dominant than parasympathetic dominant.
Managing Stress by keeping your autonomic nervous system health
- Manage your attitude: Keep your thoughts and emotions positive. This takes practice and can be learned. Choose to be a positive person.
- Be grateful for the good things in your life. Make it a habit to say “thank you” often through out your day.
- Stop judging other people and yourself. We are all unique and have special gifts and talents.
- Be gentle with yourself and others when you make a mistake.
- Practice forgiveness of self and others.
- Learn to “let go”. Worrying about a situation only causes more stress and unhappiness.
- Learn to meditate. A simply method is just to breathe deeply and slowly, following your breath. With each in breath say a positive affirmation to yourself; such as I am calm, peaceful and light-hearted. With each out breath, let go of any negative thought, fear, feeling of guilt or worry. Even a few minutes of this practice can slow down your heart rate, lower blood pressure and renew your energy. If and when stress rises again, take a moment or two and practice this simple meditation.
- Set appropriate boundaries, especially with negative people. If conflict arises, “stay on your side of the street” and own your feelings. Blaming others only accelerates the sympathetic nervous system and will wear you out.
- Get restful sleep. Take a nap during the day if you possibly can. Go to bed at the same time every night, preferably by 10pm. Turn off the TV, take a warm bath and practice a relaxation technique to aid in easily falling asleep. A hot cup of “sleepy time” tea will take the edge off.
- Nourish your body with good, healthy food. Animal protein is very helpful for the brain and nervous system. You may also want to take a multiple vitamin and mineral supplement with calcium, magnesium and zinc. These supplements should also include B-complex vitamins. If you are a vegetarian, be sure you are getting enough protein.
- Learn to reduce your stress as much as possible. Take vacations and special “days of retreat.” Overworking is a major cause of stress.
These lifestyle changes are not impossible. You can do it. When you get your response to the natural stressors of life under your control, you will find a greater sense of contentment and fulfillment: great ingredients for a happy, balanced life.
At Healing Unleashed we are here to help you with your healing needs. We have a very simple program called the emWave by Heart Math that will teach you how to get your autonomic nervous system into balance, called coherence. Give us a call @ 303-986-0492 and make an appointment with Dr. Bedinghaus or Dr. Sloss.