What is stress?!

Why do some people have it, and others don’t?! Stress is the way the body and brain respond to change, challenges, or demands. It is the way the body naturally defends itself against any dangers it perceives. This is frequently referred to as our fight-or-flight response. These stressors can be mental or physical, and the body is actually unable to differentiate between mental and physical stressors. It simply responds in the same way whether it is exposed to physical or mental stress. No wonder after a mentally taxing day, sometimes the last thing we want to do is exercise, even though exercise is a great outlet for stress! Our body is actually telling us that we need to learn to manage our stress better, so we don’t keep having these spikes in cortisol that can eventually become exhausted, leaving us feeling stressed out, tired, and overwhelmed.

Meditation and deep breathing are frequent recommendation for those dealing with stress. Why is that? Meditation has been found to have many benefits for those dealing with acute or chronic stress. When the body is acutely stressed, a hormone called cortisol is released from the adrenal glands which helps our body respond to the stressor that it needs to. However, when the body is under chronic stress, the adrenal glands lose their ability to produce the necessary amount of cortisol to respond to the stressor. This can lead to fatigue, hormonal imbalances, irritability, feeling overly stressed, and even sleep disturbances. During these episodes of stress, a part of the brain called the amygdala is also activated. Meditation can help to reduce the activity in the amygdala, reducing those feelings of stress. Studies show that meditation can:

  • Reduce stress up to 31% and increase vitality by 28% (Cleveland Clinic, 2016)
  • Lead to improved work performance
  • Increase the ability to multitask
  • Help reduce stress by focusing on the present moment

I’m sure you’re wondering how to get started with incorporating meditation into your day! Here are a few easy tips to get started:

  • Take a seat in a calm space that feels quiet to you.
  • Set a time limit. I recommend at least 1 minute per session. Pick a time that feels right to you.
  • Close your eyes. Pay attention to your body. Conduct a body scan to help identify any areas of tension. If you feel an area of tension, relax that area and let the tension go
  • Focus on your breathing. Breathe in for a count of 4, hold it for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, pause for a count of 4 before taking the next breath. This is called square breathing and can help reset the adrenal glands.
  • Pay attention to your thoughts. If you feel your thoughts wander from your breathing, kindly bring your thoughts back to your breath.
  • When you feel ready to return to your day, gently open your eyes.

If you are dealing with any of the symptoms discussed, we would love to see you in our functional medicine department. We are here to help you manage your stress, evaluate your adrenal function, and help you get back your energy!