How’s your stress levels? Do you consider yourself as someone who copes well under stressful situations, or do you feel like you’re constantly inundated with the symptoms of stress?
The stress response is triggered by the oldest parts of our brain and is an ancient device with the purpose of keeping us alive. We’ve all heard the stories or our cave-dwelling ancestors facing off against sabre-toothed tigers. Their brains didn’t need to reason why the tiger was there or what it’s ultimate plans were. Over time, the brain evolved to recognise the threat and boil down the choices for action to – fight, flight or freeze. These options all giving the best chance for survival.
Over time we’ve moved beyond facing sabre-toothed tigers, but the part of brain which scans for danger is still looking out for our best interests. Sadly, it hasn’t moved beyond the life-or-death nature of facing a stressful situation so perceives any and all stresses as just as dangerous as the tiger.
Your boss asks to speak with you, someone cuts you up on the road, you have a deadline looming on a report – all of these can trigger the stress response. It gives us an edge and can be a great motivator to complete tasks and push through when we’d otherwise be sitting on the couch watching tv.
But in the 21st century we are inundated with stress – you don’t have to look too far to become caught up in massive stresses and this takes its toll on our health and well-being. Being overwhelmed by stress can lead to insomnia, anxiety, depression and many more physical health issues. The system designed to keep us safe millions of years ago is being triggered so often that it is no longer keeping us safe.
It’s not all doom and gloom, because recognising stress as being a potential problem in your life is the first step towards making lasting changes. Taking steps to learn how to reset our central nervous system can take time but will ultimately help us manage daily stresses more positively without the feelings of overwhelm.
We can’t change the world we live in, we all have worries and stresses to face, but it is what we do to support ourselves in facing them that can have a big impact on our physical and mental health.
Taking time to ground yourself and work on creating a good work/life balance is a great place to start. This doesn’t have to complicated – it can be as simple as leaving work on time and taking 10-minutes for yourself as soon as you walk through the door. What you do in this 10-minutes should be nurturing and nourishing for you and should help you switch from work-you to at-home-you.
Here’s a 10-minute Grounding and Balancing mini-yoga flow designed to help move you from overwhelm to a calm and settled perspective. Having a sense of humour as you step onto the mat is another great way to reset the nervous system – not taking yourself (or your yoga) too seriously allows you to enjoy a sense of joy and lightness in your yoga practice. This is where the good stuff happens.
If you don’t feel like moving, then why not try a short breathing exercise or a mini meditation. Whatever works to transport you from your stressed-out brain into relaxation mode.
None of this will be an instant cure for overwhelm, and if you feel that stress is taking over your life then please speak to your GP. There are plenty of services available to support you in managing stress more productively, yoga is one such option.