by Glen Depke
It is amazing that the emotional aspect of our health is often overlooked as a significant contributing factor to our overall health and wellness. Often this is looked at as “in your mind” as is communicated by many doctors today. Let’s take a look at the “in your mind” aspect of your health.
First of all let’s look at the physiology of stress to your body.
When you are under stress the body regards this as a “fight or flee” situation. To be real for most of us, our stress is truly not a life or death situation but based on the perception created in the mind, your body believes that your situation is often life threatening.
Once this type of situation is regarded as life threatening, your body and specifically, your sympathetic nervous system, kicks into high gear. The response that will then proceed is recognized below:
• Your heart rate will increase
• Your blood flow will be decreased to the internal organs
• Your blood flow will increase to the muscular/skeletal system
• Your senses will become more acute
• Your adrenal glands will significantly increase cortisol production
All of this happens to give you the ability to fight or flee from your life or death situation. The problem though, is as mentioned above; it is most often not that type of situation.
This sympathetic nervous system reaction is perfect if you are being attacked by a pack of wolves but a disaster for your body if the stress is traffic, spouse, children, job, boss, bills, and/or finances. It is amazing the significant amount of individuals that wake up in the morning and are living the perception of being attacked by a pack of wolves from that moment until they lay their head down to sleep at night.
Recognize that a regularly elevated heart rate is not health building. Understand that when your blood flow is reduced to your internal organs, the digestive system struggles to do its job. Recognize that senses in a heightened state of awareness can really drive you crazy. Last but not least, the high cortisol production will create significant challenges with functionally the whole of your being.
Beside for the sympathetic nervous system reaction, it is important to recognize that there is also a chemical reaction when you are living with negative emotions. Every negative emotion will produce chemicals in our bodies that create challenges for the body, while positive emotions produce chemicals that are very healing to the body. I don’t know about you but I would love for my emotions to be producing chemicals to heal my body rather than destroy it.
There is one very simple tool that you can use to create a positive shift in this emotional stress reaction. Breathe! Yes, I know you breathe already but it will be important to create a habit of deep belly breathing. When you do this, you will increase the intake of oxygen by your cells which has a significant physical benefit to your health but there is another physiological benefit. You cannot be under stress and take a deep belly breath at the same time. We talked about stress creating a sympathetic nervous system response; deep belly breathing creates a parasympathetic nervous system response. The parasympathetic nervous system is the relaxed side of your nervous system that is dominant during times of relaxation. This aspect of your nervous system enables your body to maintain functional balance without you needing to have a conscious thought in that direction.
So what does a deep belly breath look like and how often should you do this.
Take a deep breath through your nose for about the count of 8. While you are taking this breath in, breathe all the way down just below your belly button, while sticking your stomach out to allow the full expression of your lung capacity. It is not about sticking your chest out, it is about sticking your belly out. From there, hold that breath for a count of 4 and then forcefully exhale that breath through the mouth for about a count of 7. While exhaling, be sure to be tightening your stomach muscles to achieve a full exhalation of this breath.
I suggest repeating this 3-5 times once per hour during your waking hours of the day.
Making the simple choice of deep breathing through your day will significantly assist you in releasing your stress and moving you toward improved states of health.
One side note; when you are in the midst of a stressful situation, 3-5 of your deep belly breaths will assist with clarity and release.
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