Stressed?

Stressed?

Stress is a normal occurrence and triggers the ‘fight or flight’ hormones and while this was a lifesaver for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, continually triggering this response no longer serves today’s lifestyle. The ‘stress response’ affects digestion when adrenaline is secreted during the ‘fight or flight’ response and energy is diverted from its primary role of the metabolism of nutrients where constant stress causes the digestive system to become inefficient in breaking down food and the absorption of micronutrients. Tell-tale signs are weariness, lethargy and feeling run down.

For example, chronic stress interferes with gastric (digestive) juices so affects how the body absorbs chromium, the essential part of the glucose tolerance factor in digesting carbohydrates. Chromium is an essential mineral (not made by the body) and needs stomach acid to make it soluble before it is absorbed in the small intestine. Dietary sources are found in brewer’s yeast, beef, liver, whole wheat, rye, fresh chillies, oysters, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, wheatgerm, green peppers, eggs, chicken, apples, butter, bananas and spinach.

There are many ways of managing stress.

Over recent years, the practises of mindfulness, meditation and relaxation have gained popularity. They work to break patterns of negative thinking in order to promote calmness and lower the effects of tension, They are all coping strategies. However, with their popularity a  fudging of distinction between the practices has arisen and so, while meditating is relaxing, relaxation isn’t necessarily meditation. To explain,

 

Mindfulness is a process of non-judgmental observation of thoughts, emotions and sensations as they come and go. Over time, an attitude of curiosity and acceptance is developed, promoting the ability to deal with difficult emotions through strengthening of presence and observation.

 

Meditation brings awareness to the present and can easily combine with mindfulness, to generate new and healthy perspectives. Thoughts and feelings stay and are examined, the objective being to observe your perceptions and then let go of any associated negative labels, judgements and emotions. With new insight, practitioners work with the mind to forge positive understandings and develop self-compassion.

 

Relaxation unwinds the mind, shaking off tensions and anxieties in order to release the build-up of stress. The mind-body affect is in action where the way you think affects how you feel and in turn affects the hormonal balance of adrenalin and cortisone.  The objective is to calm the body’s chemical reactions associated with triggering the fight or flight response  thereby promoting physical and emotional well-being.

 

Try the following simple exercise to experience the effects your own mind-body reactions. Find a quiet spot and sit comfortably,  spending a few moments relaxing and let your imagination to wander. Just be…   see what you see… hear what you hear…. smell what you smell…. and, just feeling what you feel….

 

Now,

Think of a time when you felt cold, oh so very cold, walking barefoot on snow and ice; the cold wind howling and hailstones pelting…. The freezing ice burning the soles of your feet as you sway in the icy wind.. the world is white and there is no sound except the howling wind…

Notice how you feel; notice how you breathe; notice posture, muscles, clenching of teeth, goose-pimples, and more..

 

And just come back to your relaxed, quiet space, noticing what’s around you and how good it feels…

 

Now,

Think of a time when you felt warm, in fact the sun has risen and is hot, so very hot as you walk barefoot on scorching white sands, the breeze is welcome but that is burning, the sunrays reaching down to touch your bare skin… there is no shade…. increasingly heavy… heavy… hot air… no respite… everlasting, intense, breathless heat…

 

And just come back to your relaxed, quiet space, noticing what’s around you and how good it feels…

 

Sit back and think. Notice how the different environments affected how you felt and that they  only existed in your mind, your powerful mind.

 

However, with popularity comes a fudging as to the distinctions between the practices so whilst meditating is relaxing, relaxation isn’t meditation

 

With practice, using these techniques either individually or combined, produce a general feeling of well-being that can positively benefit many different areas of life including the control of blood pressure and stress hormone levels so also hold the capacity for improved relationships too.

 

None of the practices are cures but they are effective are coping strategies to calm feelings, reduce tension and stress, and support overall wellness.

 

Have a go? Try this self-paced 8-week (free) program from Palouse Mindfulness, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.  Stay healthy, stay positive.

 

 

References:

Haas, Elson M and Levin, B. (2006) Staying Healthy with Nutrition. 21st Century edn. New York: Ten Speed Press.

Holford, P. (2004) New Optimum Nutrition Bible. 17th edn. London: Piatkus Books Ltd.



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