The Fight on Stress

Stress is unique. What creates stress in one person may not be the same for another. Why? How we experience stress is relative to each of our individual backgrounds and beliefs.

Stress can be defined as, “physical, mental, or emotional tension resulting from factors that alter equilibrium within the body.”  Stress can also be defined as, “the perception of a real or imagined threat to your body or ego.”  This means that stress can be objective or perceptive and the problem with that is, our nervous system becomes maladaptive. Our fight or flight system was not designed to be cranked up and turned on all of the time. A chronic stress response can lead to many disturbances within the body and explain why research has demonstrated stress can be associated with the increase of disease.

To best address stress in your life, you first have to be able to recognize what key stressors you deal with. In today’s world, we are not worrying about the threat of predators like we were thousands of years ago. Back then, our nervous system was evolving to serve and protect us from predators with our “fight or flight response”.  However, we are bombarded with emails, to-do lists, lack of sleep, nutrient poor/refined diets, financial burdens, and family expectations, which have taken the place of us fleeing predators. Humans today experience more stimulus in one week (through news, social media, work, email, home life, etc.) than our ancestors experienced in a lifetime.

Here is the good news! Although you may not be able to eliminate all of your modern day predators, you can learn to manage them so they are no longer threatening you. To do this you have to learn to engage the other half of the autonomic nervous system known as the parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest and digest” arm of the nervous system. When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated it counters the stress hormones and creates a calm and relaxed mind and body. There are several ways to help engage this powerful relaxation center. For optimizing your stress response; be mindful of your stressors, find a stress reduction technique that fits you, and practice it daily.

Parasympathetic Activators:

  • Spend time in nature
  • Breathwork, specifically deep belly breathing
  • Meditation
  • Yoga, or Tai Chi
  • Hobbies
  • Spend time with animals or children
  • Focus on a soothing word – and repeat it in your mind
  • Prayer

Valley Schools offers our members resources and tools to help manage stressors. Contact us today to learn more about our WellStyles™ program and how it can help your employees live their best lives!

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