4 TIPS FOR MANAGING CHRONIC STRESS
What is Chronic Stress?
We have a stress problem. A BIG stress problem. Chronic stress is a direct cause of all of the chronic diseases that kill people. Heart disease, metabolic disorders and even cancer. It’s also linked to anxiety and depression. Simply put, chronic stress reduces the quality of your life AND shortens it.
But we are not defenseless against chronic stress because even though we are dealing with countless stressors as adults in the modern world, stress isn’t actually what happens to us. Stress is your brain and body’s conclusion that you don’t have the resources to MANAGE what is happening to you. When this happens the body goes into protection mode. We’re talking a flood of stress hormones that tax your adrenal glands, an immune system that is on high alert causing wide spread, chronic inflammation, a brain that is wired for fear and anxiety.
But when the prediction of the brain is that you have the tools and resources to handle your stressors, your systems react in a much more helpful way. A quick flare of stress hormone can be incredibly helpful in you to think and move quickly. It can get you motivated to do what must be done to ensure your success and happiness.
So how do we build this stress resiliance? How do we aquire these resources so that we can manage our stress in a more productive way?
Below, I offer my 4 tips for chronic stress. They are free, simple and so accessable. You can employ them today!
What is Chronic Stress?
#1 Breath Awareness
If only you had a tool to measure your current physiological state! If only you had a direct switch to turn off your fight or flight response to your rest and digest nervous system platform.
Believe it or not, you do! And it’s been right under your nose the whole time. Breath awareness is not something most of us are familiar with. We tend to get the job done without having to be aware of the breath right? While there is no WRONG way to breathe, there are ways to breathe that may be more supportive of your heath and wellness aspirations.
Evidence shows that shallower breathing, mouth breathing and clavicular breathing (that’s when your chest rises as you inhale) all trigger the stress response . In fact, the next time you are stressed, notice how you are breathing. It’s likely that it will be a shallow, clavicular breath. So it’s a two way street! Your mental state can influence your breath and your breath can influence your mental state. That means that you can actually control your mental state, ie,your response to stress with your breath. If you would like more tips on and scientific data on breathing, have a listen to my podcast episode How to Breathe in Yin Yoga. This episode will give you some tools for managing your stress with breath awareness.
#2 Mindfulness Practice
Present moment, non-judgemental awareness appears to be extremely beneficial in combating the effects of stress. There is a slew of scientific data that shows the mindfulness is effective for not just reducing stress, but also reducing anxiety and depression. Mindfulness can help your body to resolve inflammation. This is important because much of the toxicity of stress comes from it’s inflammatory effect on the body. Our bodis are not equipped for sustained inflammation.
If work is your biggest stressor, the good news is that mindfulness has been shown to not only reduce your perception of stress but also increase your engagement with your work.
You don’t need to make time for a 60 minute meditation every day to get the benefit from mindfulness practice. You can practice while you eat, exercise, practice yoga or cuddle your pet. In a recent podcast, I chatted with a mindfulness meditation teacher and she used the term, small moments, many times. Can you incorporate small moments of meditation many times throughout your day? If you’d like to hear more of her advice, you can listen to the full podcast here.
#3 Spend Time Around Supportive Peers
Did you know that periods of social isolation as short as 2 weeks can negatively impact your health. Longer periods of social isolation increases your risk of depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Humans are social animals and when we are isolated or feel disconnected we suffer on every layer of self. Evidence shows that the changes are down to the molecular level. Prolonged social isolation changes the way we react to stress by affecting the activity of the APA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal). Isolation and loneliness can even promote tumor progression.
It’s serious stuff. So many of us withdrew from social settings by necessity in the last few years. Many of my clients and indeed myself, are having trouble getting back into the social groove. But it’s essential.
Practicing Yoga in a community setting is an awesome way to meet people who are also working on their health and wellness. When you attend the same class over months/years/decades, you build up a social network. You and your classmates come together to accomplish something. This is what humans do best and it’s possibly the most underrated benefit fo practicing Yoga in a studio setting.
#4 Get Moving
You must be living under a rock if you haven’t heard yet that exercise is a great way to build stress resilience and bounce back from acute and chronic stress events. Accumulating evidence documents the beneficial effects of regular exercise in preventing or ameliorating the metabolic and psychological comorbidities induced by chronic stress. These benefits are thought to derive from a central effect of exercise to reduce the sensitivity to stress and also peripheral actions influencing metabolic functions and, in particular, insulin sensitivity and the partitioning of fuels toward oxidation rather than storage.
On the other hand, chronic stress coupled with physical inactivuity is a perfect storm. This alone has contributed to the epidemic of cardimetabolic and psychological disease that has befallen the modern world.
Staying active is not just about losing weight, or “toning up”. It’s about living a vibrant, energetic life. Building up your emotional and phsiological resources and being present for those you love. Sure, we are stressed and busy and overcommitted. But exercise gives more time than it takes. Getting to a Yoga class a couple of times a week won’t happen without making it a priority. When you think about all of the priorities in your life, is any as important as your health?
Nothing even comes close.
So, what do you think? These 4 tips for managing chronic stress cover most accessible and evidence based tools that we have right now for managing chronic stress. They are all inexpensive, totally accessible and side effect free.
At Sound Method we are serious about our role in the Omaha community. We are honored to provide access to regulation, mindfulness, and movement resources. We foster a community that is supportive and down to Earth. If you need help managing your stress, we hope that you will give Yoga a try.
New Students can take a 30 day test drive of all of our classes for just $50. Learn more
About the author
Owner and Founder of Sound Method Yoga
Mandy is the owner and founder of Sound Method Yoga in Omaha, NE. A hardworking studio owner, yoga teacher and mom she is an avid reader and a lifelong learner. Mandy has a keen interest in science and channels this love into her classes. You can expect a session influenced by her knowledge of biomechanics, pain science and neuroscience. Her love of movement is not limited to Yoga. Mandy is passionate about somatics, inspired by the Feldenkrais Method®. Her daily movement routines include weight training, HIIT, martial arts, hiking, dog walking and more! Any movement is good movement. She is the primary faculty for Sound Method Yoga’s Registered Yoga School and the developer of that program and other training programs for Yoga teachers such as her trademarked Yintensive®. Mandy is the host of The Yin Yoga Podcast. Her classes are creative, authentic and often praised for her storytelling. Her goal is to help her students and clients find their own somatic sovereignty through movement, breath and mindfulness. She teaches in Omaha and around the world.
Follow Mandy on social!