Balancing Your Stress Response

Being stressed out is a natural outgrowth of contemporary lifestyles. When stress becomes chronic, it can trigger a variety of mental and physical health problems. The way we respond to stress remains virtually unchanged since the days of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, yet the kind of stress we experience has changed a great deal. Our bodies were built for responding to sudden physical and environmental threats to our safety; today, most of what stresses us out is emotional in nature. The danger presented by a sabre toothed cat was resolved quickly: our ancestors outran it, it lost interest in them, or they succumbed. Now the pressure we experience tends to be incremental and sustained over long periods. The cortisol that builds up in our systems under sustained periods of stress can literally make us sick.

Many contemporary physicians consider chronic stress one of the chief causes of illness, or at least a factor that can make them much worse. Headaches, backaches, inflammatory bowel disease—these can all have a strong emotional component. Being chronically stressed robs your immune system of its efficacy; during the colds and flu season and the holidays (which happen to coincide), it’s especially important to bolster it. Yoga, meditation, pranayama, and vigorous exercise are all extremely helpful in staying healthy. Add a balanced diet (with plenty of whole foods), lots of water, and regular vitamin and mineral supplements, and you’ve got a recipe for a healthy winter!

As the holidays approach (and encroach!) we all need to make sure our personal “time out” periods are sacrosanct. There’ll be gifts to buy, cards to write, meals to prepare, conflicts to mediate, etc., etc. It’s incredibly important for us not to give our practices short shrift! Whether your routine includes yoga, meditation, Tai-chi, pranayama, martial arts, or some combination of these, keeping them up through the holidays and the coldest months will do wonders for your immune system and stress response. Namaste!

Copyright © 2012 by William K. Ferro, All rights reserved

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