Stress reduction is really the task of managing our stress levels. When stress becomes dis-tress, do we have some ability to break the building cycle and stimulate the relaxation response? If we think of the hot buttons that create that miserable inner feeling we call stress, we usually see that they are outside our skin – money, time pressures, people wanting our attention, traffic, deadlines, etc. What lies inside our skin are the physiological and psychological reactions to the stressors. What is outside is often not totally within our ability to control, thus it becomes a threat to our inner calm and control. We then realize that the internal responses is the area where we may be able to regain control and relax. This is unwiring our hot buttons so there is not so much damage to our health.
Scientific evidence is exploding daily which links out modern-day stress levels with disease. This data shows that stress reduction is a major tool to either prevent disease or to moderate the impact of it. We now understand that our bodies are very adequate to handle acute stress in which we may be in real physical danger.
Today, most of us rarely confront such life-threatening situations. Our bodies are unable to recognize the difference between real physical threats and the gnawing, grinding pressures of living today. These less-intense but just-as-real threats wear away at our energy levels, weaken our immune systems and erode our enjoyment of life. Science calls this condition chronic stress and warns us that our bodies are not capable of enduring such pressure.
Stress reduction is quickly becoming a necessity for survival as we confront the constant changes and uncertainty during this turn of the millennium.
Can we really manage our stress levels? Is it possible to unhook the hot buttons? Science has demonstrated that our bodies have an amazing ability to rebalance and self-heal, given the opportunity. The key lies in rediscovering what it is to be truly relaxed.
The mind-body connection teaches us that our bodies will try diligently to follow the lead of our minds. If we dwell on how stressed we are , the body will go into high alert. We call this fight or flight.
The good news is that we can learn to use our mental capacity to allow the body to relax, rebuild and heal. It begins with an attitude that says somehow, someway we can modify our lifestyle to be healthier and less stressful. It includes:
We can slow down periodically and consciously to take deep, full breaths, which allows the nervous system to access the relaxation response. We can learn mind-quieting techniques which allow the body to let go of the stress reaction more quickly. Stretching stress-knotted muscles with awareness in walking, Yoga and T’ai Chi are ways of untensing.
These are only a few of the many tools we can learn, to regain control over our stress-filled lives and begin to enjoy life as much as possible.
Sources: Nellie Ford, CMT and James Ford, ThD
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