Stress is not only unavoidable, you couldn't live without it. It provides motivation and creates action. Your body is adapted to handle stress. It gets into trouble only when it can't de-stress.
Confused? Let me explain.
As everyone knows, you can't avoid stress. It's found at work, at home, while you are driving to the mall. As animals, we are programmed to respond to stress. It's called the fight-or-flight response. When animals are presented with a stressful situation, they rapidly produce adrenaline in order to deal with it immediatelyby fighting or running away. That removes the stress, and they then get on with their lives.
Humans, however, often haven't learned how to deal with modern stressors. We can't fight being stuck in traffic, and we can't run away from our crazy boss. We can't control what life throws at us.
But we can control how we react to it. And when we do, we can eliminate the stress.
Lots of proof that mental states affect physical states as well. Stress linked to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity insomnia, and even early death.
A large study in England found that work-related stress increased risk of heart disease by 68 percent.
Stress has been found to cause increases in C-reactive protein, one of the major biomarkers for heart disease. It also affects heart rate variabilitythe heart's ability to change its pumping rate to meet your body's needs. This can predict heart disease better than smoking, high-fat diet or lack of exercise.
There is even a name for stress-related heart damage: metabolic cardiac necrosis.
As I said, you can't avoid stress, but you can control how you react to it.
We are aerobic creatureswe need oxygen to live. Breathing techniques, which have been used by Eastern religions for centuries, help oxygenate your body and remove stressit's literally, "out with the bad, in with the good."
Stress lowers immunity by changing the genetic workings of your cells, making them unable to fight the effects of your anxiety. But deep controlled breathing can reignite your immunity and help you fight off stress.
I recommend a breathing practice called sudarshan kriya, or SK. It's actually a series of three different breathing patterns.
1. Sit comfortably on the floor, spine straight. Breathe through your nose while making a quiet whisper sound through your half-closed mouth. Inhale long and smoothly for 5-6 seconds. Feel the air flow deep into your lungs all the way down to your kidneys. Exhale the same way for 5-6 seconds. Repeat 20 times. (It may take you a while to work up to that many, so start with 5-10 and gradually increase.)
2. Breathe fully but gently through the nose, expanding both your chest and belly as you do. Then exhale hard, pulling your belly in toward your spine as you do. Work up to 40 cycles.
3. Similar to part 2, except this time you expand your chest as you inhale, then compress your chest and belly as you exhale. Again, work up to 40 repetitions.
If all this seems too much, simplify it. Whenever you feel stressed, just take deep, slow breaths that fill your body cavity all the way down to your belly. Become fully aware of your breathing pattern. Within a short period of time, you'll be amazed at how your stress washes away and your mood and energy level improve.
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