Relieving Stress through Mindful Practice

Posted on Saturday, August 1st, 2009
Written by: Angela, Nutritionist

Nearly everyone feels stress on a daily basis. Stress is the body’s response to challenging situations and circumstances. When stressed, the body produces chemicals to prepare for a “fight-or-flight” response. This gives us the energy to fight or run away in life threatening situations. Even when there is no danger to our life, many situations trigger this response. If stressed too frequently, the body may suffer harmful effects.

When the fight-or-flight response is triggered, the body responds in the following ways:

  1. Digestion slows down. Blood is directed to the muscles and brain.
  2. Breathing increases and supplies more oxygen to the muscles.
  3. The heart beats faster and raises blood pressure.
  4. Perspiration increases to cool the body.
  5. Muscles tense up to prepare for action.
  6. Chemicals are released to help blood clot.
  7. Sugars and fats are released in the blood stream to provide fuel.

Some sources of stress are fears and worries, relationships, change, commuting, disease, drugs, finances, school, and work. When “stressed out” for long periods of time, people become tired, irritable, anxious, or depressed. If it goes on without relief, illness and disease may result.

Relaxation allows recovery from the fight-or-flight response. During periods of stress, always take time to care for both your body and mind. Relaxed breathing is the quickest and easiest way to release some stress.

Try this:

Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth. Leave it there. Breathe in to the count of four and breathe out to the count of four. While breathing out, form a circle with your mouth as if blowing bubbles. Use this relaxation method anytime, anywhere.

A simple short daily practice of mindful behavior, if done consistently, can help overcome years of disconnectedness. Though practicing a ten minute meditation or breathing exercise daily may seem insignificant you will reap long term rewards with your health by beginning to bring down your overall stress state over time.

Your ten minute exercise will also allow you to use the experience as a goal to return to as your day begins to become more and more stressed. Simply close your eyes and return to the experience of mind body connection and calm breathing. Your body will thank you!

Action Plan:

Look at your daytimer and schedule ten minutes to yourself over the next week. You may use the breathing technique offered above, or use a mediation CD…either way, set a timer for your mindful behavior and stick with it. Before you begin, think about how you feel. What is your current stress state? What emotion are you feeling? Ask yourself the same questions after you are done with your mindful behavior.

Angela Pifer, MSN, CN Seattle Nutritionist

Categories: Developing Awareness

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