What is Stress?

Our days are filled to the last waking hours with things from the never-ending to-do list. We lie awake at night, unable to sleep thinking of what we didn’t get done or just thinking of one thing after another. We hear about the negative effects of STRESS.

But what is STRESS? Simply, it is a response to potential life-threatening situations. The brain signals the body for immediate action to a real or perceived threat. Heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, breathing becomes faster, muscles engage and the senses become heightened. But modern life is full and busy. If we don’t take time to “rest and relax” the “fight/flight” mechanism can get stuck “on”. The brain can become hyper-vigilant and everyday events or thoughts are perceived as threatening. Like the tap being left on, the body continues to be flooded with “stress” hormones.

Over time the immune system becomes suppressed, inflammation increases, digestion suffers, blood pressure rises. This leads to chronic pain, physical illness, environmental sensitivities, depression, anxiety. Chronic Stress over-taxes the body’s systems and damage occurs. Yikes!

A breathing yoga class provides some of the best ways to help quiet chronic stress responses. Daily positive social connections, physical movement, breathing into your belly and diaphragm, meditation, and refocusing and retraining our brains have proven very effective. We take these tools outside the studio, too.

Stressing as you wait in a long line at the store? Breathe softly into your belly. Feel your feet on the ground. Be in the present moment; an over reactive brain needs something to focus on other than replaying the past or worrying about the future. Find a way to distract these thoughts – like you would a fidgety 3 year old! Notice all the purple things in the room or count the number of magazines in front of you or recite a rhyme in your head. You get the idea! In less time than you imagine, stress diminishes. You are calm and peaceful. Your body is resting and healing.

While sitting in a traffic jam running late for class, I distract my brain with this:

Smile To Relax Enjoy Simple Silence.

Shawn Barrett

Shawn Barrett is a craniosacral therapist and yogini. She supports her clients to improve their brain, nervous system and overall health.

Contact her at longtide@me.com

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