Do you know how to efficiently handle the events in your life? In a way that leaves no toxic residue behind? If not, you must be familiar with some level of stress. Generally the energy of stress is tight. Stress makes us clench. It cuts off blood and energy flow to all body cells. Yet, according to Eastern medicine principles (Chinese or Ayurvedic for example), a pre-requisite for good health is good circulation, precisely! So stress is definitely bad news for your health.
But some say stress has a purpose....Let me explain.
The stress response, also called the "fight or flight" response, is a primitive physiological mechanism designed to help us react quickly and accurately when faced with real physical danger. In that state your blood is diverted away from your gastro-intestinal tract to your skeletal muscles, making them ready to contract. Your breathing accelerates, your pupils dilate so you can see better and your metabolism increases. More energy becomes available. This is the response you need when trying to escape a car collision or any other dangerous situation. The problem is that the same mechanism kicks in when you only imagine a physical danger or a psychological threat. For example, your boss calls you and says he needs to speak with you ASAP, you imagine the worst (getting fired). Or you're preparing for a public speech and fear that you might go blank.
On top of that if you live in a noisy, smelly, densely populated city the constant assault on your senses can easily trigger a fight or flight response. Daily. That's how gradually stress becomes part of our "modern life". This kind of stress is pernicious because it is chronic, low-grade and easily dismissed with:
- A glass of wine to chill...
- A pill to fall sleep...
- One to brighten your spirit...
- Caffeine for an energy boost.
- Self-medicating works just fine for a while. Until it doesn't anymore.
Are you there? Or feel you are getting there?
The Mayo Clinic website states that "the long-term activation of the stress-response system - and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones - can disrupt almost all your body's processes." This puts you at increased risk for numerous health problems, including:
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems
- Digestive problems
- Memory impairment
- Worsening of skin conditions, such as eczema.
Do I have your attention yet? Fortunately there is hope and some great news. Because most stress begins in the mind, relaxing our minds is a priority. How? By going to sleep.
Sleep is an all-around healer. During sleep we forget our stories, our dramas, our to-do lists! A ton of physical and psychological healing happens during sleep. But how do I find such restorative sleep you ask? I'll go with one word: rhythm.
Not what you might hear first when asking any health practitioner about sleep aid. Yet rhythm is where you want to start. The nervous system loves rhythm, the predictable kind that is. When the body is awakened, fed, exercised and rested at consistent times daily the predictability this creates is key to keeping your nervous system out of "fight or flight". A well-paced day, followed by another, and another, will invite your nervous system to relax and ease into sleep at night. For more on how our daily rhythms affect our health read this piece I wrote, From effortful to ease-full living: the Ayurvedic Lifestyle.
Now, what part of your daily life could you make a little more consistent? Drop me a note below.
Sweet dreams for now,