We are all susceptible to stress. The increasing demands, time pressures, and unmet obligations of today’s fast-paced culture makes stress nearly unavoidable. Some levels of stress are good, helping us stay productive and alert. However, chronic levels of stress can wreck havoc on our health due to prolonged release of the body’s stress hormones. Over time, high levels of these hormones can increase blood sugar, heart rate, and blood pressure, and can also serve as a causative factor in heart disease, obesity, menstrual problems, and mental health disorders.
Just because stress is unavoidable does not mean that our health has to suffer. Carving just 10 to 15 minutes out of your day to take care of yourself can drastically reduce stress. There are a variety of techniques that you can use to manage your stress levels and improve your health and vitality.
One of the easiest, and fastest, ways to reduce stress is simply to breathe. Deep, focused breathing has been shown to elicit the body’s relaxation response, or a physical state of the body that counteracts the negative effects of the stress hormones.
A simple technique to try is the 4-7-8 breath:
- Sit with your back and place the tip of your tongue just behind your upper teeth.
- Exhale completely through your mouth while making a whooshing sound.
- Inhale through the nose for a count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale through the mouth making a whooshing sound for a count of eight.
- Repeat this cycle three more times.
Of course, there are many techniques that you can use to reduce your stress levels. The most important thing is to find one that works for you. You may not be able to control stress, but you can control how you respond to it. Being able to better handle everyday stress will improve your health and make life that much more enjoyable!
“Take Time to Unwind.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Website.
“Breathing: Three Exercises. Dr.Weil.com Website.
“Stress and your health fact sheet.” Office on Women’s Health Website.
Written by Ariel Beccia NCNM Naturopathic Medicine Program.
Edited by Dr Elise Schroeder.