Stress impacts your whole life and all aspects of your health. It is the number one issue I see in almost all clients who walk through my clinic door. Our bodies aren’t designed to go- go-go all day long, but these days it’s how most of us live our lives. Without time to rest and relax, your body is put into this constant hyper-stressed state. This unfortunately has a huge flow-on effect to many aspects of your health and wellbeing, including hormone balance, immune function, blood sugar control, weight gain and your digestive health.
One huge player in this game is our autonomic nervous system. This system regulates all of our automatic processes within our body – such as breathing and digestion. This system is made up of two branches; the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The parasympathetic nervous system is referred to as our ‘rest and digest’ system and is activated when the body is in a calm state. This system helps us manage our day to day business of life - eating, sleeping, recovering, and reproducing. When this system is activated, our heart slows, our breathing calms, we digest our food, we make hormones, we repair our muscles, and we build our strength. The more time spent in this state, the better.
The other branch, the sympathetic nervous system, creates what is colloquially referred to as our ‘fight or flight’ response. This system evolved as a survival mechanism and leaps into action when our body senses a threat - such as being chased by a lion when we’re out hunting. When this system is activated, changes occur within the body to help us escape
the danger. Energy stores break down, stress hormones get produced, heart rate and blood pressure increase, our pupils dilate, and digestion slows.
This response is all well and good if you’re in an immediate state of danger. But these days most of us aren’t out in the forest getting chased by lions. We’re sitting behind desks
with impending deadlines and 1000 things on our to-do list. I know it seems too easy, a treat even, but what if pulling your body out of this ‘fight or flight’ state and into its ‘rest and digest’ state for 15 minutes each day could improve your health?
One way to pull yourself out of this state is by taking 15 minutes out of your day to have some me time. This time can be spent doing anything that you enjoy and find relaxing.
Ways to switch from ‘flight or flight’ to ‘rest and digest’:
- Diaphragmatic breathing, or deep belly breathing
- Legs up the wall - laying on the floor with your heels up on the wall forces you to breath diaphragmatically
- Mindful activities and being really present in what you are doing - this works well while walking, reading, writing or drawing
- Taking a hot bath
- Slow restorative yoga