All scientific research is pointing at stress being the root of most illnesses affecting us today.
Your mind is in constant communication with your respiratory, digestive, reproductive and central nervous systems, and fully controls the entire health and functioning of your body. We automatically associate the term ‘health’ with physical well-being. Somehow, we skip the most crucial link: the mind.
The number of people affected by stress today is staggering; few of them do anything to cope with it. At the most, we talk to a friend or go for a walk, which temporarily helps, but only at the surface level. Many take to binge eating, drinking and smoking in the face of stress. More load on the digestive system, liver and the lungs will only put your body under chronic stress.
We’ve adapted to stress in a way that it has become a normal state of being.
* A common scenario is that our body can be experiencing stress physically, but because we’ve become so used to being in that state, we are ignorant of it on a mental level.
* Stress originating from tiny everyday issues gains momentum over time and deters our ability to have clarity about our emotional and mental lives in the long run.
* Managing stress will help you get a handle on many physical health problems such as chronic pain and gastrointestinal disorders to mention a few.
How To Handle It All
We cannot control the myriad of issues that come our way, but what we can control is how we respond to them. The first and the most important step is to recognise you are about to be stressed, and do something about it.
Here are a few tips:
Breathe: Take long and deep breaths for about two-three minutes, and breathe right. Your belly should expand as you inhale and retract as you exhale. This simple technique relaxes your body, thereby calming your mind as a by-product.
Music ’therapy’: Pick a soothing track, and tune out of the stress and into your inner calm.
Pet-love: Hug and cuddle your beloved dog or cat. Having physical contact with your pet not only lowers your blood pressure, but also makes you feel loved, and calms your mind.
Run/Exercise: About to have a tough meeting with your boss, or break-up with your partner in a few hours. Move your body to prepare your body. We know endorphins released post physical activity make your body happy, thereby giving you a happy and calm mind.
Live in the moment: While all of the above are ways to get ready for the oncoming train, here’s what to do when stress hits you. The best way to combat all physical health issues is to deal with stress when it’s at its very beginning, with a Zen mind. More often than not, we stress crazily in anticipation of bad situations that never even end up taking place. Also, millions of people across the world use the binge-and-purge method in dealing with stress. They stress out all day, thinking they can wait until evening to release it upon hitting the gym or going for that yoga class. Wrong. ‘Repressing until later’ is the root of all diseases. “Unfortunately, when we delay going for our inner balance, our body has already activated the stress response — our health suffers at all levels, no doubt.”
Your body is built for movement. When you move, a lot happens in your body that makes you more energetic and stronger. Physical activity such as brisk walking, gardening or outdoor activities can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and mental health problems, among others.
Break your sedentary lifestyle
Prolonged sedentary behaviour increases the risk of disease, even if you exercise several times a week. That’s why it’s important to increase your daily movement if you sit a lot. Take several short movement breaks during the day.
Move for half an hour a day
You need to get active to get fit and build strong muscles. Half an hour of moderately strenuous activity a day is enough. It doesn’t have to be all at once. Fifteen minutes twice a day or several five-minute sessions work just as well. Remember that every step counts.
Exercise your muscles in everyday life
Two to three times a week is a good time to exercise the strength of your muscles. Climbing stairs is good for both your fitness and your leg muscles. For your movements to have a real effect, you need to warm up and get your heart rate and breathing up.
All forms of movement have a positive effect on your body
Moderate exercise can have major health benefits, both physically and mentally. Regular movement strengthens muscles, which in turn protect joints and bones. It also increases your mobility and balance, which in turn reduces the risk of falls and broken bones.
less stressed & sleep better
When you move, your blood circulation increases. This allows cells to take up more oxygen. This makes it easier for the body to deal with things that can be harmful to the body, such as elevated stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. You’ll feel better with less stress and get better sleep.
Did you know that the diaphragm normally does about 75% of the workload when it comes to breathing??! And that this amazing muscle pretty much never gets tired?! It is our most important breathing muscle. And yet, so many of us are hardly even using it, which is a waste. And, in the long run, it can lead to other health issues.
Primary Breathing Muscles
We have two ’groups’ of breathing muscles. There’s the primary breathing muscles and the secondary breathing muscles. The primary ones include the diaphragm, the muscles between the ribs (the intercostal muscles) and the abdominal muscles.
These muscles are the ones we are primary suppose to use to breathe, hence the term ’primary breathing muscles’. The problem is though that a lot (!) of people are not using this group of muscles to breathe, but instead the ’backup muscles’ – the secondary breathing muscles.
To this group you find the muscles in the upper chest, upper back and the neck muscles. These muscles are there for when we need extra capacity, when we need to take in more air because we are doing strenuous work such as running, working out, and so on.
Constantly using the secondary breathing muscles can cause neck pain, lower back pain, pain in the shoulders and upper back, tension headaches, and poor digestion just to mention a few.
So how should you then breathe?! In a normal, functional breath the chest and shoulders should hardly not move at all!! The belly and the ribs should softly expand on the inhale, and soften on the exhale.
You can check your breath by placing one hand on your belly, and the other on your chest. Observe where your natural breath is. Don’t force your belly out (or in). Simply let the breath happen by itself.