Global levels of stress are currently high. The COVID-19 epidemic has brought about an unprecedented era of fear, panic, and stress. Even if you’re young, healthy, financially supported, and not particularly stressed – stress is spreading in society, lowering our vibrations, and causing issues with our mental and physical health.
The fastest and most natural way to reduce stress is to breathe, and it’s free! Read this article to learn more about how breathing benefits you.
Here’s how stress is impacting you.
Why is stress bad?
When you feel stressed, your body and mind are shifting to respond to the stressor. This is an evolutionary adaptation. Back in the time of our ancestors, stress was a sign that something was going wrong – a predator was approaching, our tribe was under threat, we ate something bad and our body was trying to get rid of it – and so on. When we acknowledge the stressor, we go into fight-or-flight mode. This essentially prepares our mind and body to do one of two things: either fight or flee the stressor.
As you can imagine, this was an evolutionary advantage that helped protect our ancestors from dying. However, in the twenty-first century, most of us aren’t under the same kind of imminent stress, and so continually being in fight-or-flight mode becomes an evolutionary disadvantage. Stress doesn’t just make you feel sad or anxious, the effects run deeper than that – here’s how it impacts your entire system.
Did you know that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, stomach pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and a number of other gastrointestinal issues are psychosomatic? Psychosomatic means that the condition is exacerbated – if not entirely created – by mental disturbance. Due to the gut-brain axis (the vagus nerve), if you’re consistently struggling with gut and digestive issues, your stressed brain might be to blame.
When you feel stressed, your heart rate increases, causing stronger contractions of the heart muscles, elevating blood pressure, and dilating the blood vessels. In times of acute stress, like when you have to slam the breaks in a car because someone pulls out too quickly, your body goes back to normal after the source of emotional and physical anxiety has left. However, when you have chronic stress, your heart is put under immense strain and your blood vessels are damaged; causing hypertension, heart attack, or stroke.
Two systems make up the autonomic nervous system: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. When we are stressed, we are in a sympathetic state, causing a release of adrenaline and cortisol as part of the fight-or-flight response.
Stress causes the body to tense. This is an evolutionary adaptation to prepare you to fight or flee predators. However, if stress levels are chronically high, your body is chronically tight. This causes muscle pain, tension, and reduced mobility.
Think of the last time you felt seriously stressed – I can almost guarantee you felt short of breath or experienced rapid breathing. This is because stress puts pressure on the respiratory system, constricting the airway between the nose and the lungs. This is why deep breathing is extremely important for stress relief.
Types of Breathing Pattern Disorders
- Hyperventilation – Breathing in excess of metabolic requirements, reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations of the blood to below normal.
- Hypoventilation – When respiration is too shallow and inadequate to perform the required gas exchange, leading to increased concentration of CO2 (hypercapnia) and respiratory or metabolic acidosis.
- Hypocapnia – Deficiency of CO2 in the blood resulting from hyperventilation, leading to respiratory alkalosis.
- Hypoxia – Reduction of oxygen (O2) supply to tissue below physiological levels despite adequate blood perfusion of the tissue. The extreme of hypoxia is anoxia.
The endocrine system is responsible for the release of hormones to maintain homeostasis in the body. When you feel stress, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis releases hormones called glucocorticoids, including cortisol. In chronic stress, elevated cortisol can reduce immune function, causing chronic fatigue, depression, and immune disorders.
Stress also causes issues with your reproductive system like delayed periods, infertility, reduced sexual desire, premature menopause, and intensified premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
So How Do You Reduce Stress?
As I previously mentioned, the fastest way to reduce stress is to breathe.
Learn to breathe efficiently to live a full, long, healthy life.
If you are experiencing constant fear, anxiety, panic attacks, and stress, please contact me to discuss ways to reduce your stress levels naturally.
Breathe well. Be well!
Article written by Anne Menik. Follow Essential Anne at www.essentialanne.com for more on looking, loving, and living healthier. She can also be reached at email@example.com or on social media by clicking here. If you want to know more about her story, find it here.