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STRESS…a blog series on the effects it has on your health

STRESS…what does it look like?
The subject of ‘stress’ is the most consistent topic that comes up in my coaching practice and let’s be honest, with a lot of people everywhere these days. This series of posts I am writing is not only a deeply personal one but one I hope will bring you or someone you know a level of understanding and guidance in the management of this. We all experience it at some point and for many these days, it is constantly simmering away, under the surface and often, you are not even aware of its insidious existence! For others, you may experience a traumatic event in your life, which you can be acutely aware of the role this stress is placing on you.

I am someone who is a HUGE believer in the absolute importance of managing your stress. In fact, I would even goes as far as saying I believe it to be my number 1 health rule! Now this does to mean I am immune to it, and I don’t feel completely Zen and grounded all day every day…not at all. It is a constant working progress but I totally believe that if you don’t make this management a priority and if stress is playing a role in your life, then, the negative impact this has on your health and wellbeing can be significant and no of amount organic quinoa and kale will fix this! I hear a lot from clients, that they are rushed, stressed, exhausted and so on, but yet many are unwilling to address the elephant in the room and make the changes in your life to take back control, so I encourage you to be brave and start the process of positive management, as your health, happiness and wellbeing will thank you in millions for it!

I have shared with you recently that I am going through a deeply personal, traumatic and stressful time in my life. This event has affected me in ways that has been challenging, frustrating and life changing. I am not here to talk about the details of my life, nor am I in a position to share these details, but what I would love to do over this month, is share this series on stress and explore not only the impact it can have on your health, but also share with you tools and resources that have not only helped me, but my clients and friends who have seek my guidance in this area.

One thing I know for sure, is that no matter who, what, where, when or why, stress plays a role in our day to day lives on some level and each situation is unique and each journey through this is personal.

Image result for free image of good stress
GOOD STRESS? Is there such a thing?

Stress is defined by the way your mind and body prepare to successfully meet challenges and demands. It can help you cope with potentially serious situations.
Good stress -gives you energy and focus
– drives you to become more skilled, confident, competent & resilient
Is when we activate our sympathetic nervous system (which is part of our autonomic nervous system) for too long. Our bodies release the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which increase your heart and breathing rates and ready your muscles to respond.
Yet if your stress response doesn’t stop firing, and these levels stay elevated far longer than is necessary for survival, it can take a toll on your health. Anything you perceive as any kind of threat to your body or life, will create a defensive reaction of tension in your body and this tension must then be released.

But for today, I want to leave you with this simple strategy that I learnt during my studies, it is called the 4-7-8 breath. This technique, by Dr Andrew Weil, is so simple and can be used wherever and whenever you need it. The best part of all is it is instant and free!
Now I’m not going to say this technique will remove all your stressors or change your life, it is just a coping strategy that you can put in your tool box.
I will explain in more detail in a later post about the importance of diaphramic breathing, but for today, just know that to deeply breath- breathing in, your belly should rise and breathing out your belly goes down, this is diaphramic breathing and something so essential to your health, it’s not funny!

So the technique goes like this;
1. Sit comfortably on a chair or couch or lie down, if possible. Close your eyes and find a position you can be comfortable in, let go of any tension you are feeling.
2. Take 3 deep breaths in and out.
3. Then, through your nose, breathe in for 4 counts. Make sure your belly in going up, not in.( this will activate your diaphragm)
4. Hold your breath for 7 counts.
5. Then exhale, through your mouth slowly for 8 counts, whilst making a whoosh sound.
6. This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four rounds.
The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the four rounds. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.

Once you develop this breathing technique by practicing it every day, twice a day or more, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it;
• Whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react.
• Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension.
• When you feel overwhelmed.
• Use it to help you fall asleep.
• Use it to deal with food cravings.
• Great for mild to moderate anxiety, this exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.

“When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath”. ~Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Over the next few weeks, I will explore and share with you;
• What is the flight or fight response? What is the freeze or flop response?
• The health impact on our physical and emotional wellbeing
• My top 10 stress management techniques
• Stress versus trauma
• Helping a loved one, no matter how young or old, through difficult times
• Resources that will help you with stress management

If you know someone who is going through a stressful time, please feel free to share these posts or have them subscribe to my newsletter.
Until next time, stay happy, healthy and grounded!

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