5/16/11 Effects of Stress & Relaxation

by Emily Relaxation is term often misunderstood.  Many people believe relaxation is a luxury or indulgence, when in fact it should be viewed as a necessity.  The fast paced and multi-tasking nature of modern society means we rarely get the opportunity to allow our nervous systems to "relax".

When we are stressed our sympathetic nervous system activates the fight or flight response, which is when our adrenal glands create stress hormones.  This system was meant to get us out of the path of a giant dinosaur but it is supposed to then turn off so we can return to a pace of eating, sleeping, and day-to-day living.

Many Americans now live in a constant state of sympathetic nervous system activity because we are doing so many things, constantly multi-tasking and just stretched too thin.  In other words our bodies are constantly producing and circulating stress hormones.  Cortisol, one such stress hormone, has many negative effects on the body when it is present in the body on a long term basis.  These hormones were designed to be released in bursts to get us out of dangerous situations.  But when we allow ourselves to remain in a state of constant over-stimulation we are creating health risks that affect both our bodies and our minds.

The long term presence of stress hormones can suppress the immune system, increase adrenalin production, decrease digestion, accelerate heart rate, constrict blood vessels, decrease fertility, increase anxiety, increase fatigue, and cause poor sleeping patterns, just to name a few.

The good news is that there are practices to help us decrease the production of the stress hormones and to decrease their levels within our bodies.  Yoga and mediation are two such practices.  Through these we learn to relax and how to get ourselves into the parasympathetic nervous system response affectionately called "rest and digest".  Take yoga and meditation a step further with Yoga Nidra and Restorative Yoga and you have an amazing way to support yourself and to deeply relax.  You will melt into levels of relaxation that you may have never experienced before.

Any time you are able to dedicate toward relaxtion is time well spent.  The benefits of relaxing will create a ripple effect in your health and well being.  You might notice you are able to sleep better, breathe more fully, be more calm during stressful situations, be present with your family and friends, have more energy, make healthier eating choices, and be more happy.