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The Stress Response has evolved with us as a protective mechanism to alert us of danger. We require it for our survival but we cannot permit it to be activated unchecked. It is extremely energy demanding to mount a stress response so if we allow it to become chronic; we will be tired and susceptible to diseased states and immune deficiency.
Danger signals registered in the mid brain are transmitted to our emotional centers and the autonomic nervous system. While the stress response is an unconscious reaction directed by the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system (fight or flight); it can be consciously controlled by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Our conscious thoughts can uncouple the transmission of signals to our emotional centers and lower our sense of fear.
Sympathetic activation is like driving with your foot on the accelerator pad all the time; you need to put your foot on the brake pad to slow down. Because sympathetic activation is an automatic response you need to constantly manage it by activating an equal or greater than parasympathetic response.
This can be achieved by activating the main nerve associated with the parasympathetic nervous system, the vagus nerve. Activities such as gargling, singing and humming stimulate the vagus nerve. Deep diaphragmatic breathing stimulates the nerve and can alter the variability of your heart rate. While heart rate focuses on the average beats per minute, heart rate variability (HRV) measures the specific changes in time (or variability) between successive heart beats. Your aim is to have a variable time space between each heart beat.
The vagus nerve also connects the heart with the brain and therefore vagus nerve stimulation can improve coherence: the state when the heart, mind and emotions are in energetic alignment and cooperation. It is a state that builds resiliency – personal energy is accumulated, not wasted – leaving more energy to manifest intentions and harmonious outcomes.
Meditation, mindfulness practice and Dynamic Neural Retraining Programs can help disconnect the emotional fear centers to improve resiliency to stress.
Stressors in your life must first be recognized and eliminated where possible. If it is impossible to eliminate some, then you need to alter your thoughts about your stress. Stress can be defined not by load but by your ability to cope. Believing that you can cope is the first step to feeling less stress. Surrounding yourself with social support is very important to help handle stress. Practice several different healthy coping strategies to address different types of stress.
Managing stress is about building resiliency not about eliminating all stress from your life.
While they may sound similar, managing and coping with stress are two very distinct behaviors. Management involves planning ahead and building systems of support before stressors become overwhelming. Coping implies a sense of survival or just scraping by during an episode of stress.
Creating a stress-management plan doesn’t have to be stressful—it can be simple! It takes a little bit of forethought and planning, but once in place, it can help you through a hectic day. Consider the list below and think of how to personalize each for your life.
There are different types of meditation and they are not all about clearing your mind of all thoughts. I took a Ziva online Meditation course. https://courses.zivameditation.com/
As the creator, Emily Fletcher says: "The mind thinks involuntarily just like the heart beats involuntarily. For some, their first attempt at meditation goes something like this: you close your eyes to “meditate,” not only can you not clear your mind, but every sad/ stressful/ angry thought comes flooding in. It’s not your fault. You are not a meditation failure. You just haven’t been taught yet".
Ziva meditation uses an ancient "mantra" technique of subvocally reciting a multi-syllable nonsense word over and over, while letting distracting thoughts bubble up in the mind. The technique calls for a mental state that almost feels like drifting off into a nap. It's meant to be as effortless as possible.
One of the most popular meditation apps is: Headspace - this might be the answer for you? https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app
Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Mindfulness could include focused activities like painting, coloring in a book or knitting. Yoga is likely one of the most popular forms of mindfulness or meditation. Once again there are different types of yoga and you will need to experiment to find the style that is best suited for you.
HeartMath is a form of Biofeedback which focuses on heart wave variability and coherence. The goal of HeartMath Biofeedback is to teach you how to bring your brain, mind, body and emotions into balanced alignment. It involves using a sensor connected to your smart phone and your earlobe. The sensor measures your breathing pattern and heart rate variability. With practice you can reach a state of coherence when the heart, mind and emotions are in energetic alignment and cooperation. This stress management system will help you synchronize your brain and heart for optimal stress resistance and mental performance.
Dynamic Neural Retrain System is a program that targets brain function, specifically a maladapted stress response and limbic system impairment. It is an intensive training program and a commitment, but it might address the root cause of your chronic condition. When you rewire the limbic system, you move the body from a state of survival to a state of growth and repair.
Your Vagus Nerve runs from your brain, past your throat, to your body. Here are some ways to stimulate that nerve:
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