Ways to remove environmental stressors
Do you feel anxious and/or stressed out every time you put the news on?
It’s quite easy to get caught up in the sad stories, losing sight of the good things that surrounds us.
Stress is a big contributor to disease. Hearing 'bad news' drives our bodies towards the 'fight or flight' response. Which, historically was intended to fight or run from that man eating tiger, increasing adrenaline for our bodies to surge strength and resilience for life threatening reasons.
During the 'fight or flight' response there are numerous changes occurring throughout the body, a few of these include:
Increased heart rate
Increased flow of oxygen to our muscles, reducing oxygen to the brain
Digestion slows down (because who needs to eat whilst running from a tiger!)
Increased fat storage (we may need that fat if we don’t have food for days whilst we’re on the run)
Our reproductive hormones reduce (because who needs to make a baby whilst our lives are under threat)
Our rational thought process is disrupted
The way I look at it is, we are made from chemical reactions, each message being sparked throughout the body similar to electricity. When this firing is highly stimulated, it’s like a power board that has been left out in the rain, firing dangerous currents all over the place leaving us with digestion, hormone, cardiovascular and mental health issues, just to name a few.
So what do we do? We breathe. We turn off the 'bad news', we don’t get caught up in the negative chat and we give our bodies time to rest.
I don’t mean this in an ignorance way of ignoring what’s occurring in the world, because there’s a lot happening that we need to be educated about. However, this doesn’t mean we need to let the devastation take over our health.
It’s about the small changes you can make to give your body what it deserves.
Meditation: we’ve all heard it before, but have you ever taken the time to understand why everyone keeps telling you to meditate? Meditation helps to increase oxygen throughout the body, reducing the fight or flight response. It’s like exercise for your brain, re-training the brain to enhance positive thinking and clear decision making, reducing responses such as fear and stress
Exercise: the scientific evidence is there—exercise is optimal for a balanced state of mind. We require exercise to think clearly, improve digestion, hormone production and of course, for cardiovascular health, to which are all related back to the way we feel and the way we think. Slow exercise such as walking, swimming, yoga, or palates are the best choices when your body is under stress. Fast paced exercise will obviously increase the heart rate, oxygen flow, and basically 'speed the body up', to which we are aiming to do the opposite. So here’s your ticket to remove that guilt for not going for a run or to your high intensive workout class.
Breathing: Similar to meditation, slowing down your breathing and taking big slow belly breaths (on the inhalation extend your belly like you’re blowing up a balloon and on the exhale, reduce the air in the balloon) allows oxygen to enter the body and relax your entire body but particularly great for your digestive system and your brain. Do this throughout the day whenever you’re feeling an increased amount of stress.
Time for you: we all need to take time out on a daily basis, whether it’s 2minutes or 2hours, it’s just as important as that scheduled appointment you put into your calendar. Taking time to do something for you allows your body to re-set and re-balance. Maybe it’s reading a book, cooking, listening to music, enjoying your morning tea in the sunshine or getting creative. Whatever it is, make sure it makes you smile!
Mindfully eating: As mentioned, watching the news or having sad or confronting conversations whilst eating will shut down your digestive systems. Making it really difficult for your body to process what you have just put into your mouth. Turn the television and phones off, laugh, connect with your friends, loved ones or with yourself and most of all, chew your food! Digestion begins in our mouth; our saliva produces enzymes, which helps to break down our food before entering the stomach. The saying “drink your food and eat your smoothie” still remains in my head when I’m drinking a smoothie. It’s referring to chewing your food to a paste and don’t just swallow your smoothie, chew it like you do food, giving it time to sit in your mouth and allowing your saliva enzymes to do their work.
Understanding your emotions: Understanding there’s no right or wrong way to feel, we feel for a reason and every emotion should be accepted and honoured. Ask yourself, “Why am I feeling this way?”. Don’t shut your emotions down just because you don’t want to be sad or angry. Is there something that triggered you to feel that way? Working on getting to know the 'you' inside is so important—work with your body, not against it.
Thanks for reading!