What helps stress – this is especially important right now because stress depresses the immune system, but we’re all more stressed than usual!
Part of the stress reaction is triggered by the hormone cortisol (which is part of the sympathetic nervous system).
Cortisol, aka ‘the stress hormone’ gets released into your blood stream in response to real or perceived stress. I was thinking about this when I ventured into the supermarket last week. The place was packed, lots of people very close together – a lot of whom looked stressed. I made a swift exit!
Cortisol is not a bad thing – it has its time and place, and when those are right it can be totally lifesaving. For example, if you were crossing the road and realised you’d made a terrible mistake with your timing, and were about to get run over. You would have a big cortisol release that would give your body what it needed to act fast and decisively to get you to safety as fast as possible.
Then you would calm down and cortisol levels would lower. This is all fine and normal.
But what about if you’re stressing the whole time about what might happen.. This kind of mind stress has the same effect, but there’s no quick end to it so you end up running high levels of cortisol for far too long.
A few other common things that stress the body and push cortisol up are:
- Eating sugar and refined carbs
- Not getting enough sleep
- Too much alcohol
- Too much caffeine
What Helps Stress?
Most people are masters at triggering stress. But to balance things out and support your immune system you need to switch stress off as much as possible. You do this my stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system, aka known as ‘rest and calm’.
The easiest and quickest way to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system is breath work.
At the recent 6 week menopause workshops I ran with Koreen, she opened each session with a breathing exercise. This was to demonstrate to the attendees both the speed and the effectiveness of the breath to relax body and mind.
This is so easy and so powerful that’s I’ve included one of Koreen’s meditations here. This is not a polished audio as we had no intention of sharing to a wider audience at the time it was recorded.
I’ve included this particular meditation as in includes my favourite breathing exercise, which I refer to as box breathing.
You’ll see just how easy this is for you to do.
When I have moments of feeling stressed, or am buzzing and want to go to sleep – I do this and it works really well to calm the heart rate and busy mind.
Other things you can do to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which will support your immune system include:
- Yoga, tai chi
- Singing – the breath out tends to be longer
- Hot relaxing bath
- Relaxing music
- Walking in nature
- Giving your dog a cuddle
In these times of inevitable stress take a least a small amount of time every day to calm your nervous system. This has become a real priority for me right now. Make it yours too.