While stress is, more often than not, out of our control – the way we react to stress is not. This means we can control our thoughts, control our reactions and reduce both the physical and mental impact the stress response has on our lives.
So what exactly is the stress response? It is in fact a very important evolutionary process that helps us avoid danger. This process is also known as the fight or flight response and it triggers a cascade of hormones that affects our brain function, digestion and even heart function.
Obviously in the past, this response was helpful when it came to escaping sabre-tooth tigers, but these days our current stresses are not as dynamic. Modern day stresses are more likely to revolve around family life, career and the economy. When this stress builds up it can lead to physical and mental health issues including headaches, increased blood pressure and depression.
The opposite of the stress response has been aptly coined the relaxation response by Dr Herbert Benson. This calms the stress response and releases feel good hormones, something that will reduce physical and emotional symptoms of stress.
Whether stress is affecting you physically, or you simply want to keep stress to a minimum, there are things you can do to relax:
Meditation is simply a way of calming your thoughts and doesn’t require candles, chanting or hours of sitting still. All you need is a few minutes to close your eyes, focus on your breath and clear your mind. Practice makes perfect with meditation – so don’t give up if you struggle at first.
Our brain is a clever machine, but it can’t differentiate between what we’re thinking and what is really happening. This means if we think negatively, our body is likely to react negatively. Counteract this by repeating positive affirmations in the present tense.
This is another way to trick your mind and reduce stress. Whenever a stressful occasion arises, or you foresee a stressful situation, try to use visualisation to view it in a different, more positive way or to calm yourself down.
Reducing stress is just one part of a person’s journey to living the life they want. To find out how a life coach could help you on this journey, please see our personal development page.
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