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Stress Hacks to Build a Health Body and Mind

At the time of this writing we are currently in the midst of a global COVID-19 pandemic. Some countries are in lock down, hundreds of thousands of people are being forced to work from home, and social distancing/self-isolation has become the new normal. With the uncertainty and chaos of the present time stress levels are beginning to soar and with this in mind I thought it prudent to revisit one of my earlier blogs to explore ways we can manage our stress and calm our inner chaos.

Ancient Stress Hacks for Living in a Modern World

Did stress kill the caveman? Everyone has heard the phrase ‘stress is a silent killer’. While one stressful episode won’t kill you, long term, uncontrolled stress often lies at the root of several chronic diseases which can.

The stress response is an evolutionary old survival mechanism designed to help you flee predators and survive long term famines. If you were a caveman and being chased by a tiger your body is going to kick into overdrive by increasing your heart and breathing rate and sending more blood and oxygen to your muscles to help you escape. Naturally, once you have escaped the tiger, your body will return to its normal resting state.

While our environment has changed quite a bit and you may not be running away from tigers anymore, your nervous system has evolved very little from the caveman era and your stress response is the same as it was 130 000 years ago. Now, modern day stresses include deadlines at work, waiting in traffic, that never-ending list of emails sitting in your inbox, and bills waiting to be paid. Often it is not the stressor that is harmful, but rather your reaction to it that can lead to chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, anxiety and depression disorders, obesity and other gastrointestinal issues, along with widespread nervous system dysfunction. For this reason, it is important to learn how to properly manage your stress.

Calming the Inner Chaos

Ancient cultures, including the Chinese, Japanese, and Indian cultures, have long utilized simple body movements to combat the effects of stress and balance the body. This includes:


· Yoga

· Tai Chi

· Qigong

· Breathing and meditation

What all of these have in common are simple postural poses to help to improve your strength, flexibility, and balance, making you more physically resilient. This helps to tone down the stress response and ground your body and mind. Some studies are also demonstrating how changes in posture can affect mood and nervous system function. Adapting an upright, extended posture may be linked with lower levels of stress hormones and improving mindset.

Daily Stress Hacks:

1. Create a routine and stick with it!This will help you feel like there is control and order in an unpredictable situation.

2. Move multiple times throughout the day.This doesn’t need to be a full workout, this can be as simple as standing up and stretching for a couple minutes every hour or downloading a quick 10-minute yoga video to do throughout the day.

3. Stay hydrated…and not with coffee!Making sure to drink lots of water and eat a good variety of healthy colourful foods will not only help to nourish your body, but can also help to improve your energy and mood.

4. Get some fresh air.Though the current message is to stay at home, if you have access to a yard, green space, or even just opening your window can help to give you’re a rejuvenating breath of fresh air.

5. Stay connected.In a time of social distancing and self-isolation it is more important than ever to stay connected to your loved ones and help spread communal support. We are fortunate at this time to have access to technologies such as FaceTime, messenger, emails, and phone calls that allow to remain connected remain connected with our friends and family from afar.

Your health is the most important investment you can make and finding a routine and practice that you enjoy is key. By making small changes today to reduce your stress you can prevent long term chronic problems that you may face later. It can be as simple as standing straighter!

If you have any stress management strategies I would love to hear them! Please share below.

Resources

Sapolsky, R.M.Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Third Edition. Henry Holt and Company, New York. 2004.

https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/9547823/13-027.pdf?sequence=1

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