We often think of stress as that horrible overloaded feeling you get after an incredibly overwhelming workday, but did you know that your body endures stressful situations more often than you realize? While the feeling of overwhelm is a psychological and emotional experience, our bodies are an interconnected system of systems, meaning that the tiny stressors that happen throughout the day are related and affect all of you, not just a single part.
When you are stressed at work, you might find that you are not hungry at lunch time like you usually are, an example of your psychological stress affecting your digestive system. Stress hormones leave no stone unturned, no corner undiscovered and no organ or system untouched in our bodies. This is why it is so important to develop ways to not only cope with stress, but help bring your body into states of rest and relaxation regularly.
Now don’t freak out if you’re not doing this already! Every little thing counts when we are trying to build the variability of our nervous system. Just as your cardiovascular system (heart and vessels) needs the stress of a workout (which raises heart rate) to maintain their health, we need the highs and lows in our lives to help us be more resilient. Yes, exercise is a stressor, and it is our ability to recover that determines “fitness” – the same goes for your nervous system.
If you’re always in a high stress situation, every little thing just adds on to your already massive levels of stress and stress hormones. But on the flip side, if you’re a sloth, it might take a lot of little things to get you to the same frazzled place as the high stress person. Neither one is better than the other. Personally, I would be bored out of my mind if I lived like a sloth, but my nervous system can not handle going at 120 mph all the time.
Developing a practice of self-care that allows you to settle into a more sloth like setting from time to time will help you climb the heights of the next mountain. You’ve probably heard the terms “fight or flight” and “rest and digest”, which are the layman’s terms for the two branches of your nervous system, the Sympathetic and the Parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the “fight or flight”, which to your body can be everything from the tea kettle going off in the morning to the semi-truck that cuts you off on the freeway. The parasympathetic nervous system is the branch of our nervous system that allows the rest and recovery processes of the body to take over. It should happen as you sleep, but if you are so intensely in sympathetic dominance, the slow trickle towards parasympathetic dominance may never get you back into the normal range where you function best. Stress trickles into sleep and manifests for many as teeth grinding or jaw clenching. If you’re one of these people, develop a pre-bed routine that helps you to unwind and relax (including everything listed below).
I’d safely bet you don’t need help finding more stressful states, so here are some ways that you can help coax your entire being into a more relaxed state:
- Set strict boundaries to distance yourself from stressors. Electronics are a big one for many people. My laptop and cellphone are put to bed about 90-120 minutes before I plan on going to sleep so I have ample time to unwind from the day.
- Have a regular self-massage practice. I roll a minimum of 3 times of a week with my YTU Balls, not just for the tension relief, but also because the texture of the therapy balls mechanically induces relaxation for the nervous system. A physical trigger for relaxation will always be faster acting than a chemical one.
- Gut massage with deep breathing. My dog’s favorite place to be pet is her belly, but she only allows you to pet her there when she is fully relaxed. The Coregeous ball is the perfect tool for abdominal and chest massage, which feels like a big hug and can quickly turn down your nervous system. The ball also helps you practice deep breathing, which aids in relaxing your body and nervous system further.
Check out my video below for how to use the Coregeous ball and deep breathing for a double whammy of relaxation and improved breath mechanics.
- July 24: T-Rex Hates Chaturanga (Brea, CA)
- July 29 – Aug 7: YTU Level 1 Teacher Training (San Juan Capistrano, CA)
- August 13-14: Structurally Sound Embodied Anatomy for Every Body Workshop Series (San Francisco, CA)
- August 28: Mobility for Performance Total Body Treatment (Santa Monica, CA) just added!
- September 15: Structurally Sound Small Group Series (Valley Village, CA)