How stress affects the body
and how we can manage it
Our brains and bodies are made up of complex systems meant to protect us. These systems have ensured our survival, but sometimes, they can really stress us out. To the brain, stress is stress, it doesn’t differentiate between physical and mental stress. As adrenaline pushes through our veins during times of stress, we can react both physically and mentally. Sometimes these reactions can cause more harm than good but don’t stress, there are ways we can feel more in control.
How stress looks physically
When stress hormones are triggered by adrenaline-inducing situations – whether we are running from wolves or work deadlines – we may notice a faster heartbeat, heightened breathing, tense muscles, headaches, and sweat.
How stress looks behaviourally
Ever wonder why you may react to a seemingly minor inconvenience as if your house were on fire? Blame our stress-activated fight or flight response system. This system is a great survival tool, but not so great when generating big reactions to traffic or work pressure.
How we can manage stress reactions
Movement is a known stress reliever, while also being a source of stress for our bodies. Movement helps us out by building a tolerance for stress. How does that work? As we work out, especially at a high intensity, our body goes into a stress response. By utilizing deep breathing and mental focus, we can calm our bodies.
Something I like to teach in my classes is Progressive Muscular Relaxation. As we breathe in we tense specific muscles. We exhale, while in a position such as a kneeling lunge, and then inhale again, while squeezing our lower body tightly, and then exhaling, sinking into a deeper stretch.
Stress happens, but know that with movement and practice, we can develop management techniques. Check-in with your body and be patient with your mind.