The ‘Stress Effect’ & How to Beat It!
Article by Macy Graham
Stress is something that everyone deals with. Some have more than others, but the question is, how much stress is self-imposed and how can we reduce the stress that we can control, and surrender to the rest?
Byron Katie, author and world-renowned healer, has a really great way of putting it.: There is your business, their business, and God’s business. Anytime we are out of “our own business,” we suffer. We can’t control how other people react, that’s their business. We can’t control the weather, that’s God’s business. But we can control the thoughts we think, the feelings we feel, and the way we choose to react.
Reactions either stem from a place of love or fear, embrace or rejection, expansion or contraction, relaxation or stress. We have two different nervous systems from which the body operates. The sympathetic, also known as the stress response, is classically known for when we either fight, flight, or freeze. Unfortunately, in modern society we can get caught in sympathetic nervous system dominance more often than not, which has become the stress epidemic that we live in today. The problem is that we weren’t meant to live in this constant state of stress. The sympathetic nervous system should only be activated as a survival mechanism against any threat or danger, and then be able to switch off once safety has been secured.
The parasympathetic nervous system is also known as the relaxation response. It’s that feeling of a big sigh of relief, kicking your feet up after a long day at work, or hugging someone 10 seconds or longer. This is how we should be living most of our days – in a relaxed, safe, and nurturing state. Some may be able to relate to this feeling more so on the weekends rather than during the weekdays, or when self-care gets prioritized and you do something just because you love to do it.
According to the Institute for Psychology of Eating, when we eat in a stressed state, our digestion is shut down by at least 50% because all of the blood flow is rushing to the extremities to either fight, run, or stay very quiet. That means no matter how healthy you are eating, if it’s a fast, multi-tasking event in which you’re paying more attention to your screen than to your meal, you won’t be able to extract all the vitamins and nutrients from the food. This leaves you insatiate, malnourished, and holding on to excess weight. When stressed, the body believes it doesn’t know when the next meal will come so it holds extra body fat, just in case, and especially around the midsection.
In my experience as an athlete in numerous sports my entire life, and now as a more seasoned yogi, I believe it’s important to actually enjoy the way we are moving our bodies. So often I see people treating exercise as this form of punishment to either lose weight, look younger, or become a better version of themselves. If all your efforts are stemming from a place of lack, stress, and “I’ll be happy when,” this thinking pattern is actually causing you more bad stress than good stress. Instead, choose an activity that you enjoy; one that challenges you but also leaves you feeling good in the body you already have. Focus on the way moving your body makes you feel, and always cultivate a sense of gratitude for your overall health and well-being.
I began studying the effects of stress in my first yoga teacher training in 2013, and I have continued these studies as a Certified Mind Body Eating Coach and Lifestyle Design Coach. It’s one of the many reasons why I turn people on to yoga, meditation, mindfulness, intuitive eating, and building self-awareness. Living in a place like Roxborough, we have so many natural healing benefits around us all the time that help us reduce stress: clean air, clean water, surrounded by nature, and friendly neighbors. Let’s be sure to take advantage of our natural environment, while maintaining its beauty for generations to come.
If you feel like you need support with stress management, don’t hesitate to reach out. Macy Graham is available for 1:1 coaching and yoga sessions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text 720-336-1030 for a free 20-minute consultation.