Before we can solve the problem, first we have to understand what stress is and why we urgently need to learn about its role in our society. The Oxford dictionary definition of stress is: a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.
Dating back to our caveman ancestors, stress was a survival mechanism to physically respond to danger. When stressed, the body thinks it’s under attack and adopts a ‘fight or flight’ mode releasing a complex mix of hormones and chemicals into the bloodstream such as cortisol and adrenaline. The rush of energy from increased levels of cortisol causes an agitated or aggressive response when stressed. Adrenaline primes the body for action, blood flow is redirected to the muscles in preparation to run away from danger, but now that the threat is more the thought of a deadline rather than an approaching tiger the lack of physical activity sustains the stress levels over time and causes muscle stiffness to occur. Moreover, the stress response also switches off certain bodily functions that are not deemed essential to our survival, this sheds light on the increasing number of people suffering from digestion and fertility problems in the modern day. If we sustain the current state of stress for prolonged periods of time it can be detrimental to our collective health.
Chronic stress is when you are subjected to stress over long periods of time from being overworked or have relationships that are plagued with dejection. In the brain, stress begins at the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis which controls the adrenal reactions to stress. Under tense conditions it signals to the adrenal glands to release a hormone called cortisol. Sustained high levels of cortisol increases the activity in the amygdala which is our fear center. Additionally, the neural pathways to the hippocampus are diverted, the hippocampus govern reactions to stress control, creativity and memories. This double edged physiological reaction in the brain to stress initiates a vicious cycle of tension creation. The inability to govern stress on a neurological level gives rise to more cortisol which perpetuates the fear center hormonally causing chronic stress responses. Going against intuition that we would get ‘used to it’ and control the chronic stress better if we have been experiencing it for years. Chronic stress acts as an impediment to decision making, efficient functioning, social interactions and concentration paving the way for maladaptive behaviors as a coping mechanism which further heightens the level of cortisol.
If we were to continue being trapped in the cycle of tension creation we will continue to desensitize as a way of self-preservation. The coping mechanism of numbness means we block out the bad as well as the good through escapism or distraction, unable to tackle the deep-rooted problem front on. This numbness makes us feel mentally dull and uninspired, it’s the first sign of depression when we can’t feel our intuition or notice the mental discomfort as a signal that something needs to change. The body becomes the final recipient of the stress manifesting as physical pain or disease– often you hear people treating their diagnosis as a ‘wakeup call’. If only they heard the alarm in the distress they were mentally blocking off for years, the suffering would not have surfaced to the body.
Stress also leads to emotional disconnection, blocking out the pressure by ‘pushing on’ is a sign of self-disrespect, which gives rise to self-sabotage behaviors. When there are no feelings of respect, love and safety for ourselves, we experience a sense of lacking or emptiness within. Many of us take this void and try to fill it with external fleeting pleasures but yoga philosophy states that the first stage of lasting comfort is to be able to feel complete and calm internally. According to the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, our inner world is a reflection of our outer world. Feeling an emotional lacking within will reflect as feeling emotionally distant and disconnected from those around us, unable to receive love and safety from our relationships with others. This sounds rather bleak doesn’t it? Don’t worry, with these 5 simple yet powerful techniques you will transform how you interact with your mind, connect with your body and kindle the relationships you have with others.
- Active Conscious Breathing
- Examine Thought Patterns
- Balance: Strength and Flexibility
- Inner Harmony
- Prioritizing Self Care
These techniques will make the most impact if you are feeling fatigued by stress, emotionally disconnected, difficulty in concentrating, suffering from anxiety or experiencing physical tension building around your body. Establishing a mind body connection will empower you to end your cycle of stress creation. The integration of the techniques into your daily life will make a lasting difference as each component will act as a springboard to the next producing the most lasting effects that will be discussed throughout this book. We will systematically go through ways in bringing awareness to stress levels, so you are able to clear the load, relax and feel true comfort.
For the full analysis download our free e-book here “Secrets to Live Stress Free”