We’ve all felt it, that feeling of frustration from trying to meet demands of work or family. Uncertainty in situations or overwhelm when we feel like we are juggling everything at once and not getting anywhere.
When we are stressed, this triggers the Sympathetic Nervous System and puts us into a state of fight or flight. Some symptoms include, a dry mouth, feeling sweaty or clammy, heart pounding in the chest, breathing gets shallower, stomach might feel upset or we might feel like we are going to be sick.
It is the role of the Sympathetic Nervous System to prepare the body for fight or flight and a rush of chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol are released into the body to prepare us for the “battle” response.
Imagine if we are in this state constantly and how it might feel with in the body. When we are constantly in this state cortisol levels are increased, and this influences anxiety, weight gain, insomnia, irritable bowel and digestive issues. It can lead to serious health issues.
When we find ourselves under stress the easiest way to work with it is to bring your awareness to something within your control. The simple act of breathing provides an opportunity to rest and restore helping us to regulate heart beat and reduce the feelings associated with the battle response.
Focusing on the breath provides a resting place for the mind and provides an opportunity to choose a response to the circumstances.
In turn, this helps us to think more clearly, improve how we respond to stress triggers and build a greater awareness of self and others.
A quick and easy method is B.E.T.A.
With a straight back, take some deep breaths in and out and check in with your B.E.T.A
B – Bring awareness to your Body and any sensations you feel such as tension, pain, heartbeat
E – Bring awareness to your emotions/feelings and label them
T – Notice and acknowledge your Thoughts
A – Choose your Action.
This process helps to develop an awareness of self and the ability to strategically choose your response.
An 8 week study at Harvard University found that participants who practiced mindfulness developed changes in the brain in places that are important for focus, empathy and compassion, and emotional regulation. The researchers also reported decrease of amygdala grey matter in the region associated with fear and perceived stress.
Just as it is important for physical fitness, the key is regular practice to build mental fitness.