Due to the situation in the world, which has no end in sight, we have all been under severe emotional stress for a year and a half. Some of us are afraid that we or our loved ones will get sick, others wonder how we will survive financially, others worry about limiting freedom, the future of the country and the world. This is by no means an easy period for anyone, but that is why it is all the more important to pay attention to stress and its consequences on our health.
Stress is not only related to work, but to any situation in which we experience fear, anxiety and worries. It has become something of a fixture in Western society, so we often don't take it seriously enough, but long-term stress can have very serious effects on our physical and mental health.
Stress is the body's reaction to dangerous situations - regardless of whether they are truly life-threatening or just perceived as such. Our nervous system can't distinguish between emotional and actual physical threats, so the body's response can be the same if we're stressed about paying bills or facing a real threat to our lives. It is the individual's perception that triggers the stress response.
When we feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in our body that allows it to respond and take action to prevent harm. This reaction is known as the "flight or fight" or stress response. At that time, the autonomic nervous system is activated, cortisol, adrenaline and other hormones are released, which cause an increased heart rate, rapid breathing and high blood pressure. Blood is diverted from internal organs to parts of the body that cause the body to respond to stress.
Not all stress is bad, because in small doses it helps us perform tasks and prevents us from getting injured. However, if our body remains in a stress response most of the time, it can lead to serious health problems. Our bodies are designed to handle small doses of stress. However, we are unable to manage long-term chronic stress without adverse consequences.
Chronic stress disrupts the functioning of almost every system in our body. It affects hormonal imbalance, weakens the immune system, disturbs the digestive and reproductive systems, causes emotional distress, muscle problems, back pain, skin, intestinal and stomach problems, obesity and eating disorders, diabetes, sleep disorders, increases the risk of heart and brain diseases stroke and accelerates the aging process. It also affects the brain, making us more susceptible to anxiety, depression and other mental problems.
How can we manage stress?
Stress is worries, fears that are always related to the future (and the past), never to the present moment. Therefore, it is very important to shift our focus and attention to the present as much as possible, using various yoga and meditation techniques. Even otherwise, regular physical activity (despite the lack of willpower caused by stress!) and the practice of relaxation techniques are very important. We make sure we get enough sleep, eat a healthy and balanced plant-based diet (animal products are full of hormone disruptors!) and avoid the use of various substances such as tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol.
Let's take time for things that calm us down and make us happy. Above all, let's find ACTIVE ways to manage stress. Inactive ways to manage stress—such as watching TV, surfing the Internet, or playing video games—may seem relaxing, but they can increase stress in the long run.
Every Friday evening, I invite you to join me at Nush Yoga Shala for a StressLess yoga practice designed specifically to combat stress. Although in all our yoga classes the emphasis is on directing attention to the present moment, in Stress Less classes we focus even more on releasing tension from parts of the body where it accumulates due to stress: the neck, shoulders, upper back and back of the legs. The emphasis is on various practical relaxation and breathing techniques that help you overcome stress in your everyday life.
See you on the yoga mat!
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