Stress: The Good and the Bad

A beautiful, stress relieving Florida sunset on Naples Beach (at 5th Ave S) on Thursday, January 23 (Thank you to Charly Caldwell II for the photo!)

Some elements of stress are good for us.

The fight or flight responses that are hard-wired into our nervous system can save our lives. The knee-jerk response of jumping out of the way of a moving vehicle, the sharp intake of breath, our hearts racing, the rush of adrenaline.

This is the rush that those who love rollercoasters, sky-diving or other such intense activities crave.

This is good stress.

Our bodies have a chance to process the increased cortisol released into our systems, and we will often feel a bit of a high afterwards. This same stress can be a great motivator to try new things and to push beyond our comfort zones.

When this same chemical reaction in our bodies turns against us, it is almost simultaneous to when we turn against it.

When our flight or fight mechanism kicks in to situations we have no outlet for.

Cancelled appointments, traffic jams, unexpected work projects and looming deadlines. When these this happen, we can sometimes feel ourselves seething.

Our blood is boiling or we turn inwards and feel helpless. Living in modern society, it’s almost impossible to avoid these events.

However, controlling our immediate response to stressful situations will make the difference between our day being ruined and simply encountering a small bump in the road of life.

Regular exercise, eating well and getting enough sleep are the first lines of defense against bad stress.

In addition, regularly practicing some simple habits can change the way we respond to stressful situations and retain control of our day:

First, just Breathe. Spend 3-5 minutes of deep, full belly breathing before and after your workouts to bring a deeper mind/body connection to any day.

Next, listen to your body. It doesn’t always have to be no pain no gain. Going easier on yourself every now and then may teach you to be easier on yourself outside of the gym as well.

Stretch! Take time at the end of every workout to stretch out your hard-working muscles, especially through the upper back and neck area where most of our stress sits in our bodies.

Listening to slower music, closing your eyes and relaxing into your stretches may prove particularly helpful.

Finally, participate in mind-body workouts. Incorporate yoga and meditation into your routine one or twice a week to give yourself a complete mind-body workout.

The essence of mind-body workouts teaches us to breathe, feel, listen to our bodies, let go of judgment, competition and expectation and stay present.

These are all important elements to help us reduce stress and become happier in our own bodies.

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