Now a days, most people have a long-distance relationship with their bodies. They pay the most attention when they are in pain. But if we try to reduce the disconnect between our minds and our bodies, we can reduce the stress in our lives. Our bodies constantly offer us valuable information in the form of sensations, feelings, and intuition. But we are so busy thinking and digesting all the stimulation outside our bodies that we forget to go inward, to turn down the volume of the world around us, and to turn up the volume on the awareness within us. One of the best tools we have for managing and reducing stress is listening to our body.
Let’s face it, stress happens. It’s part of being human. It requires effort and skill to take care of ourselves in ways that minimize stress, ensure we truly enjoy our free time, and enable us to be fully present in our lives. When we experience stress our brains trigger the release of stress hormones into our bloodstream. After a stressful situation, it can take anywhere from half an hour to a couple of days to return to a normal resting state. Chronic elevated levels of stress hormones can lead to serious issues. For example, too much cortisol can suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure, decrease libido, produce acne, contribute to obesity, and more.
How can we reset our body and return to the desired resting state, free of stress hormones? Awareness is the first step. Our body can give us signs right away that our physiology has changed. Often, our heartbeat and breathing changes; we can feel heat in our body or sweaty palms. Eating and drinking patterns can change when we are stressed. We may feel the fight-or-flight response.
Our body is our best ally. Learning to listen is a practice. And easy way to start is simply to slow down.
Meditation is one great way to slow down. But if that’s not your thing, no worries. There are plenty of other ways to slow down, reset, and recharge your body and nervous system.
Here are a few ideas:
We can slow down just about anything we do so we are doing it more mindfully, with deliberate focus. This is also referred to as awareness.
By practicing awareness when we are not stressed, we become better at detecting when stress arrives. When we acknowledge what is happening in our body, we can stop those stress hormones sooner. Movement, exercise, and plenty of water are critical when we are stressed. Shake it off, literally. Shift the state in your body by interrupting the stress pattern so the chemicals stop being produced. Find a way to stop thinking about the stressful event. One helpful way to manage stress is with massage and bodywork. Bodywork supports our body’s natural ability to recover from the stress of being human, and there are so many benefits! In addition to relieving stress, bodywork helps manage headaches and reduce muscle tension.
Some people are good at treating their body like a temple, but most of us need practice. We only receive one body in this lifetime, and we don’t need to wait until we are stressed or in pain to take care of it. Instead, we can learn to check in with, rather than check out of, our bodies. Increase the body’s awareness by slowing down, moving, exercising, and including bodywork in your health-care plan. Cheers to wellness!