The American Medical Association estimates 60% of all human illness is caused by stress. It’s safe to say that stress may be the biggest killer in the western world.
A lot of the illnesses and diseases we suffer from today have been linked to the stress we encounter in our everyday lives. Stress is a cause of immune system disorders and digestive problems. Weight gain and obesity, anxiety and depression, insomnia, low energy, lack of sex drive; so many aspects of our well being and our health are impacted by the stress we suffer from daily.
The way we live and the world that we have designed around us has so many wonderful facets but also causes an over stimulus within our bodies that triggers a stress response. Our nervous system is not designed to be constantly bombarded with information. When this happens our body is not able to differentiate between a small stress and a large stress. It doesn’t matter what the trigger is, all your body knows how to do is react in the same way each and every time, which isn’t beneficial to our well being.
Our bodies have evolved from a time when all we worried about was finding food and survival, those were our main stressors. Whereas our stressors may come at us from every direction the moment we wake up. We get up in the morning and the first thing a lot of us do is get on our phones. We check our emails, read the news, worry about the political climate, worry about our finances and how we are not making enough money; all of this causes stress on our body whether we realize it or not.
While we can’t change the environment around us, we can change the way we respond and how we feel in those situations.
A study reported by the Harvard Business Review found that people who watched just three minutes of negative news in the morning have a whopping 27 percent greater likelihood of reporting their day as unhappy or depressing six to eight hours later.
The information that we soak up really does have a massive impact on our mental health and how we feel. Managing our bodies stress response is important moving forward to get our health and well being in a positive place.
Using your breath to overcome and control stressful situations is going to help your body get rid of unwanted stress that may cause illness.
Here Is How It Works
Our body actually has 2 Nervous Systems: Sympathetic and Parasympathetic.
When we are responding to a stress trigger, we are using our Sympathetic Nervous System. Our body starts to release hormones, such as adrenaline, to aid in tolerating that stress trigger. At this point, our body inhibits our immune system and digestive system functioning so that it may deal with the stressor at hand. In the past this was to run away from whatever is causing that stress.
But since we are constantly bombarded by stressors coming from our environment, the body’s response to inhibit function for certain periods of time is now happening quite frequently. This is where you start to see illness and disease sneak in. As a byproduct of high stress, we are in our Sympathetic Nervous System too often and releasing stress hormones that are inhibiting the functionality of other systems.
In order to move our bodies from Sympathetic into our Parasympathetic Nervous System, we can do something that is very simple and will help our body in the long term.
How to Use Your Breath
When we breathe into our chest when we are in the Sympathetic Nervous system, so to change that to the Parasympathetic, we need to breathe into our diaphragm. To do this you will need to take a deep breath through the belly, filling the whole of your belly area with your breath. Hold it here for a count of 3 and breathe out, extending your exhalation out longer than your inhale. For example, the pattern should be: Inhale for 3 seconds, hold it for 3 seconds, then exhale for 5 seconds.
This form of diaphragmatic breathing immediately changes the hormones in our body. It can be used before a stressful meeting or right after you get up in the morning. By bringing ourselves into the Parasympathetic Nervous System, you will notice the negative effects of stressors melt away, your mindset to that stressor will improve and your body will more easily receive stress in the future.
Using this technique more consistently, you will start to reduce the stress response and bring a healthier and happier sense of well being into your life.
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