You probably know about the term, " fight-or-flight". It's our body's system of survival responses when faced with threats. Your heart rate goes up, your breathing gets shallow, and you become overly aware of everything that's going on around you.
This is the same response your brain and body kick into when you're under chronic stress and overload. Unfortunately, most of us spend a lot of time in this stressful state, going from one mini-crisis to the next. We have too little time for rest and rejuvenation. We use unhealthy coping solutions like consuming coffee, refined sugary snacks, or other harmful habits.
Over time, our health suffers because of being in chronic survival mode. It can lead to chronic symptoms such as fatigue, reduced focus, poor sleep, stubborn weight, brain fog, and hormonal imbalances. Being under constant stress also leads to chronic medical problems like high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and autoimmune conditions.
Thankfully, there are other, healthier responses to stress that we can adopt. As you get used to them, you can use these techniques to shift your body's stress response into a calm, secure, and replenished state.
1 Rest and digest
Spending most of our time in overdrive is detrimental to our health. Part of life involves replenishing ourselves by getting into a restorative mode from time to time. It helps us recover from the humdrum of daily life and times of stress.
Unfortunately, most of us don't take time to rest, because we think we can't or shouldn't. Relaxation lessens the effects of stressful events and should be a part of our daily schedules.
Here's how you can switch your mind and body into a restful state:
- Breathe slowly and deeply for three minutes before getting out of bed in the morning and before going to sleep.
- Take a relaxing hot bath in the evening.
- Spend 30 minutes a day in nature.
- Attend a yoga class.
2 Tend and befriend
Do you know why it feels good to call a friend when you're feeling anxious or down? Shelley Taylor, Ph.D., a researcher from UCLA, has identified this as the "tend and befriend" stress response.
Our bodies produce a small amount of oxytocin in response to threats. This hormone triggers us to bond with others, which helps us feel safe and calm down.
To get into this mode:
- Talk with a good friend on the phone or take a walk with a loved one as you talk with them. Studies show that verbalizing our concerns turns off the sympathetic nervous system, helping us to relax.
- Do something social to bond with others. You don't necessarily need to discuss problems to enjoy social bonding.
3 Excite and delight
Some of us tend to shut down when we feel pressured. However, it's possible to open up and use the energy from stress to become more interested in what's going on around you.
Because this response also involves cortisol and adrenaline, you feel the same level of alertness as you do in fight or flight mode. But instead of narrowing your focus, you open up and engage your curiosity.
Take every challenging situation as an opportunity to learn or experience something new. For example, if someone is aggressive toward you, you could consider what's going on with them, rather than getting defensive. Doing this might lead to compassion instead of more anger. Tapping into curiosity expands your options for solving problems — and often resolves them faster and easier.
Asking yourself these questions can help you enter this excite-and-delight mode:
- What else might be going on that I'm not seeing?
- What's really happening here?
- What's interesting about this situation?
Most times, we assume that how we're "wired" to respond to stress is "who we are." However, you can rewire your brain to adapt better stress responses. In turn, you experience more happiness, success, better health, and longevity.
The Sole Toscana Beauty Team