Working with your body instead of against it is important for your emotional and physical health!
When you understand the way your body works, you are more able to give it what it needs. Supporting your body and the systems in your body will allow them to function more efficiently.
Let’s take a look at the way our nervous system is wired to handle stress, so that we know how to support it and stay regulated in these trying times!
A Regulated Nervous System
The nervous system is a remarkable communication network that relays messages between the brain and the rest of your body. Your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are designed to work together to keep you safe.
Simply speaking, the body goes into a sympathetic state when there is danger. Stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are released, and your body goes into fight or flight mode. This is a protective measure designed to give you the best chance of survival in dangerous situations.
A well regulated nervous system will settle once the danger is over. The parasympathetic nervous system will be activated. Heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar begin to normalize. This is often referred to as the “rest-and-digest” state of being and is where healing takes place.
In today’s world the dangers we face are not always clear. Our nervous system often registers chronic stress as a danger. This can include things such as stress at work, relationship trouble, financial concerns, loneliness, and our world's current crisis.
Chronic stress can leave us with a dysregulated nervous system, leaving us stuck in a fight or flight response. While these stress responses are beneficial temporarily during a time of crisis, we were not meant to stay in them long.
Reducing the amount of stress and increasing your capacity to handle unavoidable stress, can help regulate your nervous system so you can stay balanced. Here are some helpful ways to handle stress.
- Self-Care - Establishing good self-care routines is extremely important. Each person will be different based on personality, circumstance, and values. The important thing is to choose things that are life-giving and enjoyable for you each day.
- Grounding techniques - To ground yourself, simply bring awareness back to the present moment by using your senses. It is extremely helpful in dealing with stress since most of our worry is about things in the past or things yet to come.
- Social connections - Warm connections actually lead to the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. This is often referred to as co-regulation of the nervous system.
- Reframing - When you are unable to change the stressors in your life, reframing your thoughts may actually change how you experience the stress. Is there another way you could look at the stress? Perhaps you could view it as an opportunity to grow. Maybe looking at the big picture would be helpful.
- Healthy Boundaries - Having healthy boundaries can be an extremely important factor in reducing chronic stress. Oftentimes we do not consider what is best for us, simply going along with what others ask of us. This can leave us with little margin, overscheduled and overwhelmed.
- Difficult Emotions - While pushing difficult emotions aside may seem like a good way to lower stress, it often has the opposite impact. Pushing difficult emotions aside can have a negative effect on our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. It is important to allow yourself to lean into these painful emotions and accept them without judgement.
- Sleep - The average adult requires 7-9 hours, but most Americans are not getting this. Without adequate sleep, you cannot be healthy. Sleep is essential for basic repair of systems in the body including neurological, endocrine, immune, musculoskeletal, and digestive.
Why it Matters
You can eat a perfect diet, but if you are not managing your stress and sleeping enough, you can still tend towards poor health!
Staying in a stress response is detrimental to our health in many ways. Inflammation, poor digestion, high blood pressure, increased glucose levels, and a lowered immune response may result.
Sleeping for less than 6 hours a day is associated with low grade chronic inflammation, worsening insulin resistance, and an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety.
A Special Note for Women with PCOS
With Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) it’s important to take extra care to manage stress and get enough sleep. The root cause of PCOS typically involves some combination of insulin resistance, inflammation, hypothyroidism, and adrenal issues.
Since excess stress and lack of sleep lead to inflammation and insulin issues, it is crucial to address these issues. Lifestyle changes really can make a big difference in the symptoms you face!
As always, I’d love to walk with you on your journey to health! Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you deal with excess stress or need help figuring out how to get a good night’s rest. I am especially passionate in helping women with PCOS manage their symptoms! If you missed the article on PCOS take a minute to read it now and go ahead and sign up for my free PCOS class coming up on Oct. 1st.)