Stress Management

Mostly all of us know what feeling overwhelmed is like. It is something that we come across in many daily activities. You need some stress to just get out of bed in the morning and when you’re out and about driving in your car, you need stress to stay alert and respond to what is going on around you. So low levels of stress can have its place in our day to day lives. But what happens in day to day life if not dealt with gets piled up and becomes a big stressor. 

 

Simple stress becomes chronic stress when things start to pile on! It starts to impair your important bodily systems causing imbalances leading to dis-ease.

 

Fortunately there are things we can work on which can help reduce our stress levels and train our bodies to better handle any stressful event that you face. 

The key is to learn how to inhibit the stress response and enter into the rest response. If you want to change your stressed-out ways, you need to develop and use new skills that support relaxation and a calm mind. Our stress response is a part of biology and was created for survival, it comes included with the human operating system. However, rest and relaxation needs to be learned and practiced — they do not come naturally.

So What is Stress?

Stress is your body’s response to the fear perceived by your mind. There are many fears and stresses we as humans have in common — pain and humiliation, to name a couple. 

 

There are also many stressors that are particular to each individual. 

-Spiders

-Deep water

-Small spaces

 

but also things like;

-Financial struggles

-Health

-School

-Work

 

It is not only situations that cause stress we also deal with environmental toxins; Cleaners

Pesticides

Herbicides

Gasoline fumes, 

even things like your personal hygiene products can cause a stress response in the body. 

 

 


Since we all have different triggers, I would like to challenge you to be mindful of what are is a stress trigger for you.


 

When your mind recognizes a stressful situation, it immediately alerts your nervous system and endocrine system. From there, every cell in your body gets on the stress express. Everything non-essential in your body shuts down: digestion, sexual reproduction, immune system, cell regeneration, creative thinking processes, etc. Your heart speeds up, breathing becomes rapid, and blood is diverted from your internal organs. You are ready to fight or flee.

 

 

When Stress Goes Wrong!

Stress isn’t all bad news but when stress continues from one crisis to the next, or happens frequently, then your body does not have a chance to fully recover. If stress continues for an extended period of time you can expect serious health concerns will be in tow.

 

During times of chronic stress, stress hormones are released in your bloodstream wrecking all sorts of havok. The nervous system is then signaled to release a variety of hormones including adrenaline, cortisol, Nora adrenaline, aldosterone, testosterone, DHEA, estrogen, progesterone and 60 steroids are also produced. These hormones and steroids are produced by our two adrenal glands. We call this the “fight or flight response”. This constant fluctuation of adrenal hormones results in exhaustion. Serotonin in your brain (your happy hormone) is inhibited by excess cortisol potentially leading to depression, anxiety and inability to deal with new stressors. Chronic Stress adversely affects just about every cell in your body. It can all be prevented with management of specific stress releasing tools, good nutrition and lifestyle practices. 

 

The Need for Stress Relief

So where is the balance between stress and rest? To maintain balance in your workday, you should regularly cycle between moderate stress and rest. After major stressful encounters your body and mind need to reenter a deeply relaxing state. This cycle between stress and rest may happen every few hours or even several times in one hour during your workday.

Stress followed by rest is the key. Fortunately you do not need to take a long nap after every time feeling stressed, even though that would be nice. Stress relief takes work but is easy once it becomes a habit. Once rest is a habit, you will be able to recover from stressful events quickly. 

 

 

The common these seems to be that stress is bad and we need to reduce or remove it from our lives. Yes, that is a smart plan to decrease stress where possible. It would be better to improve your ability to deal with the stress you are not able to get rid of right away.

 

Types of Stress Management

Yoga – A focus on movement and breath to build your ability to calm, focus, balance and to relax.

 

Meditation – A mind and body practice used to increase calmness, physical relaxation, coping with illness, overall health and wellbeing.

 

Easy to moderate Exercise – to engage is physical activity to sustain or improve health

 

Breath work- boosts immunity, increased self awareness, heal emotional pain or trauma

 

Outdoor activities – reduce anger, reducing blood pressure, reduce muscle tension

 

Art – calming and playful

 

Journaling – allowing your subconscious to organize your thoughts and feelings

 

Dance – Releases stagnant energy, increases feel good hormones

 

Singing in the shower or car – playful and fun, allows your body to enter a relaxed mode

 

Talking with others – community support can be extremely helpful allowing different thoughts of perception to be of support to your life.

 

Asking for help – Saves time and spreads out tasks reducing stress

 

Gardening – peaceful, exposes you to bacteria necessary for health gut and immunity 

 

Hanging out with your pets

 

 

+ many more


Breath of Joy

Breath of Joy – Prana Sukha (energy of happiness)

If you find yourself feeling down, struggling with low energy use this breathing exercise to pick yourself up and reconnect with yourself. You may also find yourself low on motivation to go to the gym, team sport, or when rolling out your yoga mat. Breath of joy uses three part rapid breathing and fast movements to find stillness and reconnect with feelings of the body. Breath of joy awakened your whole system by increasing oxygen levels trip was circulatory system and temporarily stimulating then parasympathetic nervous system leaving you calm and focused. This breathing technique can also be used to circulate more prana(energy) and gently stokes agni (digestive fire). The forceful exhalation can slightly detoxify the body and release stagnant tension. As it creates a state of homeostatic balance, breath of joy has been found effective in managing mood, releasing anxiety and inviting a feeling of being refreshed and relaxed. 

 

Benefits

-Use of the arms with inhalation encourages deep and full breathing while infusing the body with oxygen

     – First inhalation (arms forward) encourages diaphragmatic breathing

     – Second inhalation (arms to the side) encourages thoracic breathing

     – Third inhalation (arms up) encourages clavicular breathing

-The deep and complete exhalation at the end helps to detoxify the body via the respiratory system

-Strengthen arms and shoulders

-Energizes the whole body

-Will make you smile

Try a practice with the Breath of Joy to Energize, Uplift and Cleanse

To practice breath of joy start standing in Tadasana (mountain pose) with feet parallel and hip width apart; knees slightly bent.

Start by taking three short, rapid inhales and exhales making audible sounds as oxygen fills your lungs

 

Rapidly inhaling 1/3 of your lung capacity, swing your arms in front you parallel to one another about shoulder width apart with your palms facing up

 

Follow with your second rapid inhale bringing your arms out to the side; shoulder height; Palms facing Down

 

The third rapid inhale brings you to your full lung capacity while inhaling float your arms above your head with your palms facing each other

 

Then open your mouth and exhale completely swinging your arms forward and down past your knees making an audible sound ha or a large sigh as you exhale.

Repeat approximately 10 times, once you start the breathing exercise each breath should flow  easily to the next without strain. Simply close your eyes and be taken up by this peaceful and stimulating rhythm.

 

On the last round, rest in forward fold knees slightly bent; Palms relaxing towards the earth. Inhaling into the lower back as you exhale feel your body relax. When ready to contract your that I’d abdominal muscles take a deep breath and slowly stack each vertebra on top of each other coming to a straight spine. Returning to mountain pose allowing yourself to observe the new energy flowing in your body. Notice your heartbeat, notice any new sensations in your arms or in your legs. Breathing through your nose feel the breath flowing to all the corners of your body bringing nursing oxygen to every cell.

 

Precautions:

This practice may not be appropriate for all. If you have a history of High blood pressure migraines glaucoma lower back problems try out a different breath exercise like Nadi Shodhana (alternative nostril breathing) 



Nadi Shodhana

Nadi Shodhana: How to Practice Alternative Nostril Breathing

      Pranayama is the science of yogic breathing, it is the control and extension of breath which awakens prana. Prana refers to the energy that comes from all life making the word mean “the breath expansion of life force”. Yamas means “reining in or control, self restraints”. Using breath as a tool helps you reconnect to your body reducing chatter of the mind allowing clarity and relaxation. 

Pranayama requires to master these four aspects of the breath:

 + Exhalation

 + Breath retention after exhalation

 + Inhalation

 + Breath Retention after inhalation 

      Nadi Shodhana, also known as alternate nostril breathing technique, is a powerful pranayama (breathing) practice with many benefits including easing a busy mind or having trouble falling asleep. Nadi a Sanskrit word meaning “channel”  or “flow”  and the word Shodhana means “purification”. Breathing through each side of nasal cavity to help centre and balance circulation flow.  

Benefits of Alternative Nostril Breathing: 

      There are many forms of Nadi Shodhana but this form is my favourite. Most deep breathing exercises are best done on an empty stomach but can also be done when it is needed.  Start with a few deep inhales followed by a calm and slow exhale. A minimum of 5 breaths like this is used to awaken your inner energy. Once this breathing pattern feels relaxed and natural then start the Nadi Shodhana (alternate nostril breathing). With one minute of intentional breathing release stress and tension. With five minutes switch your body into rest and digest mode. On a physical level, focused breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, creating a sense of calm decreasing heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension.

In addition to stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system with regular practice of Nadi Shodhana also:

 

 Reduces stress and anxiety

 Helps balance hormones

 Balances masculine and feminine energies 

 Helps alleviate respiratory allergies

 Fosters mental clarity and an alert mind

 Enhances the ability to concentrate and focus

 Removes toxins

 Supports lungs and respiratory functions

      Next time you find yourself doing too many things all at once, or you sense panic or anxiety begin to rise, move through a few rounds of alternative nostril breathing. It’s a great way to hit the reset button for your mental state. 

Nadi Shodhana Practice: 

  1. Find a comfortable seated position
  2. Place your left on your left knee with your palm open to the sky (or in a preferred mudras)
  3. Right Hand: folding your index and middle fingers down towards the centre of your palm at the base of your thumb. Aligning the pinky finger and the ring finger together. Your thumb is used to close off the right nostril and your ring and pinky fingers are used to close off the left nostril. 
  4. Starting with your thumb closing off the your right nostril exhaling slowly out your left nostril. 
  5. Keeping the thumb on your right nostril now inhale through the left nostril
  6. Switching nostrils press your pinky and ring fingers on the left side and exhale gently then inhale on the same side completing cycle one of Nadi Shodhana. 
  7. Switch to blocking the right nostril and continue for 5-10 cycles allowing your mind to follow your inhales and exhales.

Steps 4 to 6 represent one complete cycle of alternative breathing. If you are moving through the sequence slowly, one full cycle should take 30-40 seconds. 

Tips: Consistency of length of inhales, exhales and pauses can achieve better results. For example as you inhale count to five, hold for 5 seconds, exhale for 5 seconds, and hold for 5 seconds. You can slowly increase your count as you continue to practice.