Stressed? Take a breather.

Take a minute or two and try to define “health and wellness”. If you are like most, you most likely envisioned this term meaning something along the lines of nutrition and exercise. However, today I am going to throw a curveball at you and talk about how stress management is a vital part of your well-being and longevity.

Stress is defined as a feeling of strain or pressure. There are positive stresses and negative stresses. Positive stress can lead you to excel in a project or over performing in competition. Negative stress, most often chronic, can lead to a whole slew of issues that most likely you already know of.

One of my favorite ways to describe stress is a quote from Tony Robbins, “Stress is an achievers word for fear.” Simply put, we create stress in our lives as a coping mechanism to handle situations that we have fear for.

Have you ever noticed that during a time of stress or anxiety that it usually comes paired with a stomachache? That’s because when you are stressed you have entered the sympathetic nervous system, or the “fight or flight” nervous system. In this system, your heart beats faster and you have more muscle contractions, which pulls blood from your digestive tract. This causes you to not be able to readily digest, absorb or utilize any of the nutrients that you have consumed.

On the contrary, you also have the parasympathetic nervous system. This nervous system is also coined the “rest and digest” nervous system due to the fact that you are able to digest, absorbs and utilize the nutrients that you are consuming for fuel. In order to enter into this system, you have to be relaxed and calm. This is the nervous system that brings about awareness and mindfulness to what’s going on around you.

Great, right? Well, how do you help get yourself into the parasympathetic nervous system? I like to partake in a series of breathing exercises to help me slow down and relax. The one I am going to outline below is called Pranayama Breathing. Here it is:

  • :03 Inhale
  • :03 Pause
  • :06 Exhale
  • :03 Hold

Perform this ratio for somewhere between 10-20 rounds. Allow yourself to use self-regulation here. If you haven’t felt things slow down around you, keep going. If you have noticed that your thoughts have begun to stop or slow down, you are probably good to stop. If this ratio of breathing and holding is too easy, simply add time to the ratio of 1-second inhale, 1-second pause, 2-second exhale, 1-second hold. It’s that easy and the benefits are amazing.

Start today! It only takes 5-10 minutes to perform this activity and you will definitely be happy that you did once you are done.

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