Stress relief tips from a Brain Health Coach
We all live in a whirlwind of stress. The people who walk into Omnia Health are typically busy parents with full lives – juggling both a career and their kid’s schedule. They have a lot going on and more often than not they are deeply stressed.
They are not alone. In 2011, nearly 75 million prescriptions were written for Xanax and Ativatn, two anti-anxiety medications, in the United States, indicating our country has a serious problem with stress.
With that said, stress seems to be the one topic that everyone has in their life. Whether it be stress about work or about your relationships. Really anything can feel like stress to our brain. Also, stress is individualized because even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal to other people it can feel like stress to you.
What is stress doing to our brain?
Stress is a weird thing. It’s not something that we can identify. It’s not like we can see stress over there and put it in a box. Stress is this thing that happens to us and we don’t really know how to explain it.
So, what actually happens in the brain is that the brain is perceiving “something” and it perceives it as a threat – and the threat is simply just a thought. It could be a thought about forgetting to call Mary back because you promised to call her yesterday but to the brain it seems dangerous.
Crazy, right? The brain has no discernment ability to determine a real threat from simply a thought. What happens then is we go into a stress response. Our body engages in a sympathetic arousal state meaning a “fight and flight” response. You’ve probably heard about that before. Our body’s shift, our heart might start to race, our palms get sweaty and our breath becomes short and shallow. We start to go into, “o goodness everything is chaotic in my life”, and it’s simply caused by a thought.
How do we deal with it? Here are two tips that I want to leave you with today.
Shake it out!
Recognize that you are having a stress response. Realize that you are going into this state and then stopping and shaking out. Shaking your body helps dissipate the hormones that get released in a stress response (which are adrenaline and cortisol). Not only that but it allows these hormones to slow down and your body can start shifting into a better state.
Shake it out for 20 or 30 seconds. You can also do some jumping jacks if you feel like shaking is a little silly.
Next, I want you to breathe. Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly so that you know where your breath is going. Start breathing down into your belly as opposed to your chest. When we breathe into our chest it can often keep us in that fight and flight response.
The reason we have our hands in this position is because we can see which part of our body is rising and falling. Breathing in for a count of 4 and exhaling out for a count of 8. The exhale is the most important part. When our exhale is long and extended like that we move our body back into a parasympathetic state which is rest and digest or rest and recover. It allows our body to calm down.
And the breath down into our belly allows for our body to be a remote control for our brain. Usually it’s the other way around where the brain is thinking a thought which then drives a biological response making our body react – moving us into that sympathetic arousal.
The breath down into our belly gives our body the chance to calm our mind down. Our mind stops freaking out because of the way we are breathing. So remember, breathe in for 4 seconds, down into your bellow and then a long slow exhale out for 8 seconds. Do this for a few minutes until you feel calm and collected. And then you can go back into the real world.
If you are trying to make decisions from a stress response. It’s very difficult. So including this shaking and breathing throughout the day is very helpful to keep you grounded and on track.
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