STRESS THE SILENT KILLER But have no fear massage, yoga, nature and meditation are just some techniques that can help to keep stress under control.
As homo sapiens were evolving, we developed the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The main purpose of the sympathetic nervous system is stress and danger response; once the danger/stressor has passed,the parasympathetic nervous system then comes in and restores the balance and normal function of the body (such as digestion, sleep, immune response, etc.). The human body has had a hard time evolving to sufficiently cope with the amount of outside stressors of the modern world. We often spend the entire day from waking until sleep, living in our sympathetic nervous system, adrenaline and cortisol pumping through our blood. To put it simply, our nervous system is literally reacting to “everyday” life, as though simple sounds, such as your phone getting a text, are the equivalent of a saber tooth tiger about to attack you. In small doses stress plays a very important role and is a good mechanism to protect us – this is the purpose of the sympathetic nervous system. However, when the stress hormones overload the body, many negative health effects can manifest. Stress response must be followed by relaxation response for optimal health and quality of life. The average days of many individuals may begin by rushing to feed the kids and get them on the bus, being stuck in traffic, high stress job, lunch meeting, more traffic, kids soccer game, making dinner, paying bills, checking email, etc. For the majority of people, stress response stays activated and the body never allows the relaxation response to do its job and restore balance. When we sense danger or feel threatened our nervous system responds by releasing stress hormones. These hormones including adrenaline and cortisol flood the bloodstream and kick the body into emergency response. When that happens, blood pressure rises, immune system is suppressed, the aging process can be sped up, the digestive system is suppressed, the breath becomes faster, the muscles tighten, blood is sent away from the digestive system and toward the limbs and the body gets ready to “fight” or “flight”. When we have a healthy amount of stress it can sharpen our concentration, help us stay focused, and alert, in the face of danger it can save our lives, giving us extra speed and strength. However, when we let stress govern our lives and keep the stress hormones in our blood we could have long-term negative health effects. Some of these symptoms of stress include depression, poor appetite, pain in the body, sleep problems (too much or too little), weight problems, heart problems, constipation, diarrhea, loss of sex drive, anxiety, short temper, and skin conditions. The longer we – as people – live in stress responses, the harder it is to relax, and the more “normal” it becomes for the body to be stressed out. There are ways in which we can minimize the effects of stress allowing the relaxation response to kick in, reducing the negative effects of stress. Dancing, massage, yoga asana, meditation, journaling, walking, spending time relaxing and doing things we love are some of the techniques we can use for self care. When the mind relaxes, the muscles in the body will relax and reduce the tensions caused by stress.