Better Managing Stress + Finding Balance
How balanced is your life? How balanced do you feel? Stress impacts our health and overall sense of wellbeing more than many people actually appreciate and in this blog we wanted to help you understand it more and empower you to start incorporating more self-care and bringing back balance!
STRESS + YOUR NERVOUS SYSTEM
To properly understand the impact of stress on your body and why it’s crucial to support your nervous system, let’s first have a look at the 2 divisions of the nervous system; the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous system. Both of these systems are part of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which is responsible for the involuntary functions of the human body.
The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) controls the “rest and digest” functions of the body whereas the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) controls the body’s responses to a perceived threat by switching on the “fight or flight” response.
When we spend too much time in our SNS (fight or flight) and not enough time in our PNS (rest and digest) it can take a toll on our physical and mental wellbeing. The SNS/fight or flight response uses up a lot of our important resources such as our stores of magnesium, B vitamins and vitamin C, as well as placing pressure on our biology by raising the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol released from our adrenal glands, which raises blood pressure, blood glucose and heart rate. Systems the body deems as non-essential in times of stress, such as digestion, immunity and reproduction, are temporarily shut down, as the body’s priority in that moment is simply survival. Needless to say, that over time all of this takes a toll on our health and impacts our ability to rest and sleep, eventually leading to burnout, fatigue, chronic inflammation and varying levels of dis-ease in the body.
In today’s modern world where we are constantly “responding to threat”, through social media, navigating office politics and being switched on and contactable every hour of the day and busier than ever before – putting most of us are in a constant state of fight or flight during our waking hours.
Ever feel “tired but wired” at night? This is when you feel exhausted but you just can’t seem to switch off enough to fall asleep. This is common in people who are constantly in fight or flight mode. In ancestral times stress (the fight or flight response) was few and far between which allowed the body to come back into complete balance once the stressor, such as being chased by a tiger whilst foraging for food, had passed. The difference today compared to hundreds of years ago is that we experience more sympathetic nervous system stimulation in one day than we would have done in an entire year!
Your nervous system WANTS to find balance and have an even split between time spent in fight or flight and rest and digest mode each day. The stress or ‘fight or flight’ response uses up a lot of valuable nutrients such as vitamin C, zinc, magnesium and B vitamins, meaning there is less of these valuable resources available to heal the body and optimise health.
With chronic stress the attention is drawn away from needs such as healing, recovery, repair, rejuvenation and growth and So, it’s really important that we replenish the important nutrients depleted by stress.
We can switch on our rest and digest state through some simple and enjoyable lifestyle habits such as regularly including calming and restorative practices like deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, Yin and restorative yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Gong, taking naps, going for walks in nature and journaling.
Which of these habits or similar can you start adding into your day to bring balance? Even just 5 minutes a day can make a significant difference over time.