Who knew that such simple things can stop stress right in its tracks?
The part of the brain called the amygdala is triggered when you are stressed, sending messages to your body to release stress hormones to prepare your body to deal with the stressor. The problem with the amygdala is that it triggers stressors that are not life or death; it triggers when we are stressed at work, arguing with others, or worried.
When this happens, people are in fight or flight mode. It's either, "I need to run from a lion," or, "I need to fight for my life." Your blood goes to your extremities, arms, and legs in order to accomplish fight or flight. This makes complete sense and I'm grateful to have it in order for my own happiness and sanity.
As I said, stress hormones make your blood go to your extremities, so other parts of your body are not getting what they need. For example, digestion and your immune system are affected, and you are not thinking as clearly because you aren't getting as much blood to your brain.
Too much cortisol, a stress hormone, can suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure and sugar, decrease libido, produce acne, contribute to obesity and more. Stress can be toxic to your body, so what do you do? Get your stress in check!
Here are few things you can do to help with stress:
- Deep breathing. Pick a positive word to exhale while breathing. It helps you stop focusing on other things so your stress hormones lower and you can think better.
- Do physical things that help you deal with stress and release soothing hormones by exercising, running, dancing, and laughing.
- Love and nurture others. Go play with a baby or a puppy. Hug your wife.
- Give. Generosity is a relaxation response that is calming.
Your body knows how to heal itself but only works when you are calm; hence, doctors saying to get plenty of rest. Doctors need to add more about staying calm in order for your body to heal.
The other thing that many of us forget about is gratefulness. We get into negative dialog about ourselves, our lives, or what we do and don't have. To stop this dialogue, we need to be grateful. Grateful puts things back into perspective.
Remember hearing about the tornadoes, hurricanes, or the shooting in Connecticut? Do you remember, in that moment, how grateful you felt that it wasn't you? You were sad for the people it affected and wished it never happened, but it was very humbling in the moment.
This is great practice. Start now by remembering to be grateful. It keeps you calm, quiet, peaceful. It's amazing that good things come to you the more grateful you are. If you can teach yourself to be grateful often and manage your stress now, you will have a huge advantage over most people and be a happier, healthier adult.
Kary Valdes, LCSW: Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist, Love and Logic Parent Trainer. Visit www.ParentTalkWithKary.com or call 615-738-8708.