Stress is a modern epidemic.
74% of UK adults have felt so stressed at some point over the last year they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.
While you may be able to eliminate the external causes of stress in your life, there’s a lot you can do to reduce the adverse effects of stress on your physical and mental health. Understanding the fundamentals of your nervous system biology and how it responds to stress is a great starting point to creating the space to reclaim your power over your stress responses.
Your Autonomic Nervous System
Your Autonomic Nervous System is the part of your nervous system that controls and coordinates your body’s ‘automatic’ processes (like breathing, digestion, blood flow). There are two parts of the system: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. When they are working well together they ensure that the body remains in balance in response to ever-changing circumstances.
The sympathetic nervous system is action-focused: it stimulates the heart, lungs and major muscle groups and triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response in response to threats.
The parasympathetic nervous system essentially calms and restores the body to a resting state and–when activated properly–helps us to renew when we are at rest.
When you experience stress (physical or emotional) your nervous system has to work harder to maintain equilibrium. It is the sympathetic branch that tends to dominate during times of stress and it is important to note that this is not harmful in the short term, and may even be beneficial.
However, if stress levels remain high for too long then physical and mental changes can begin to show. Because the nervous system controls and supports so many of our bodily structures and functions, stress-related symptoms can show themselves almost anywhere.
Physical Stress Symptoms
Emotional Stress Symptoms
Chronic stress response
In order to restore a healthy stress response to ourselves, we have to become aware of when we get triggered into an automatic response (that creates a negative feedback loop), and start to unwind this response.
In the process of doing this, we can further work on increasing our nervous system capacity, as well as building exit pathways to allow a smoother flow of stressors in and out through our system.
1) Meditation and mindfulness
At the top of the list, but quite often these are perceived as difficult techniques for people to access easily as beginners.
There are lots of groups, classes, and apps that can help you to develop these skills or you might like to have a few one to one sessions with a practitioner who specialises in these techniques.
4) Somatic Body Practices and Visualisation
Somatic bodywork can help enhance our internal perceptions of our bodies and then helps us integrate these perceptions with our sense of ourselves in our external world. Utilised in conjunction with visualisations, this can become a powerful way to ground into our bodies and help start the unwinding process in the case of a messy and/or incomplete stress response.
Combined with reiki and aromatherapy, this can be a self-nourishing and pleasant way to help us juggle the stressors in our lives and maintain balance.
If you are interested in finding out more, please don’t hesitate to contact the clinic, or stay tuned for future posts diving into these areas in further detail.
Joli Knott, Reiki master