Not all stress is bad. “Good” stress gears us up for moments when we are being threatened or need to be motivated in some way to overcome a challenge. However, prolonged exposure to chronic stress can have serious impacts on our general wellbeing.
When our bodies are constantly exposed to stress, our immunity drops, the risk of inflammation increase, attention and memory are impacted and so is our ability to get a decent sleep.
Sometimes it is not always possible to completely remove ourselves from these stressful situations. Accordingly, science is continuing to find solutions that involve training our brain and body’s reaction to stress. Here are four ways to do it.
Take a Deep Breath
Ever wondered why one of our natural responses to calm someone is to tell them to “take a breath?” Breathing has a strong impact on our body and mind, particularly in relation to the body’s natural ‘relaxation response’. When we are stressed, we are more likely to be holding our breath, or doing shallow breathing.
The relaxation response involved deep diaphragmatic breathing, or belly breathing like as is adopted in practices such as yoga. Research conducted by the University of Canada has shown that when we consciously change our breath, we can also change how we feel emotionally.
Meditation also taps into the body’s natural relaxation response. Not only does it make you calmer, happier and more productive, it has countless benefits on your sleeping and eating patterns. When conscious breathing, relaxation or meditation are used regularly, your mind and body are retrained to be less reactive to pain or stress, and your nervous system is calmed.
In a world where we are constantly online, on our phones or wired in, it is hard to take down time and disconnect from the daily stresses of work, study, family and daily life. Making a conscious decision to disconnect and have down time not only ensures you are taking time for yourself, but also encourages you to have a better work/life balance and allows you to be more present.
Banish Negative Thoughts
When we are constantly stressed, it can be easy to enter patterns of negative thought spiralling and “catastrophising” – where we are trapped thinking about the worst case scenario.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one way where we can retrain our mind and identify unhelpful thought patterns which can make pain or stress worse. CBT involves acknowledging the current challenges and establishing patterns of thinking that support better mood, positive actions and reduce stress or pain.
Simple exercises that help you focus on the positive, such as starting a gratitude journal can help reduce negative feelings.