In today’s world stress is often an inevitable part of being human. Heck stepping outside my NYC based home with its sirens, blaring lights, and millions of people was enough to drop me into a bad case of the stress monster. A monster that lived in me, not under my bed.
When it came to stress, I thought it was a badge of honor to use stress as fuel to get me through the day. I use to crave it like a junkie craves their drugs. But after time stress took its toll on me. I was tired, had headaches and had a hard time dealing with my work responsibilities. One day I had an epiphany. I realized that I deserved the same kind of advice I so easily gave my clients. So I made it my mission to cure my stress dis-ease.
Not so long ago I had a stress breakdown over some bad family news. Having reached my wit’s end and incapable of dealing with the news I did something that I feel ashamed about. During dinner time I got up from the table and threw a chair against the living room wall. My daughter was in the room with me, and I scared her to the point where she started to cry. Seeing her frightened face, tears rolling down and seeing that she had become afraid of me made me stop in my tracks. You see I grew up in a violent and abusive household and I promised myself that I would never be like that yet there I was behaving like a lunatic and scaring my daughter and my husband.
At that point, I knew I had to change things. I went to my mentors and community of health workers for their advice because I had reached the end of my rope. Here I discovered stress busters that included journaling, breathing, mindfulness, sound healing, and exercise. I will be sharing several of these with you this week.
I’m focusing on breathing. Why? Because it's the number one way to connect to your essence, stay in the moment and stop stress dead in its tracks. Plus you’re breathing anyway so why not use it to your advantage. I know it sounds crazy that such a simple thing like breathing could transform you from a ball of knots to a relaxed person, but it does so give it a chance. Let's quickly cover what happens to your body during stress.
The Physiology of Stress
The body undergoes many changes when you become stressed out. Stress hormones are released into the bloodstream, and they prepare your body for an emergency response. During stress the heart rate increases, the muscles tighten, sharpness increases and blood pressure rises. Physical strength also increases and the focus is sharper. These bodily changes prepare us for us to fight or flee from a dangerous situation.
When real danger is present, stress is a good thing and can motivate you to perform better in life. But when stress is an everyday occurrence, it can be bad for your health and relationships.
If you’re stressed over a busy schedule, an argument with a friend, a traffic jam, or a mountain of bills, your body reacts just as strongly as if you were facing a life-or-death situation. If you have a lot of worries, your stress response may be “on” most of the time. The more your body’s stress system is turned on, the easier it is to fall into a pain response or flare-up and the harder it is to shut it off.
Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression. Researchers at the Northwestern University Institute of Neuroscience found that people suffering from chronic back pain, for example, not only demonstrate abnormal brain chemistry, particularly in the emotional center of the brain but also actual brain shrinkage (The Journal of Neuroscience, November 2004).
For pelvic floor dysfunction, it is essential to manage stress and keep it in check because although stress is not the root cause of leaking, intimacy pain or prolapse it can make matter worse and prolong healing.
Melt Your Stress Away with Breathing
One of the best ways to control stress is to connect and focus on the breath. In this great video, I show you three different types of breathing techniques that are incredibly effective in reducing stress.
By incorporating these breathing techniques into your day to day life, you will find yourself more relaxed, clear-headed and focused. I invite you to do the breathing techniques highlighted in this video on a daily. There are three to choose from but start with one, master it and then go to the next one. Although this video shows a pregnant woman, these breathing techniques are universal and can be used by any woman or man.
These techniques can be performed in the restorative pose as shown in the video or in seated meditation. You will gain tremendous stress reduction benefits even if you do breathing techniques for as little as five minutes a day. Watch this 3-minute video below to learn these fantastic breathing techniques.