The fact that you are reading this article shows that you are suffering from work-life-related stress, maybe even have had burnout, or currently suffering from burnout, and you don't know how to get out of this deep black hole that keeps eating you up.
Before we do that, do you remember the last time you were truly relaxed? Or is your condition even worse, that you can not even recall what being relaxed felt like? Are you so busy all the time that you have forgotten to acknowledge the beauty of things around you? Well, if you are agreeing to all these, I guess it's about time you read this article below so that you truly understand what stress does to our bodies.
Stress? What is it?
Stress is a survival method to keep us alive. In the past, when our ancestors were still living in the forest, they listened to their stress response, especially when they were in great danger, e.g when a wild animal is coming to hunt them. The stress reactions can either be running away from the predators or fighting the predators. Sometimes, they choose to freeze, as in pretending to be dead, or hide and do nothing so that the predators can leave them alone.
Adrenaline and noradrenaline, are short-acting hormones that don't last long.
Cortisol is a long-acting hormone. This hormone can be found in people with chronic stress. All the stress-related disorders that we encounter in our lives are mostly connected with cortisol.
What does cortisol do?
Increases your blood pressure (our body needs to make sure that important organs like our brain get a good blood supply; acceleration of heart and lungs, increase in blood sugar, suppresses the immune system)
Boosts energy, for our muscles so that we can fight or flee. While the energy is being produced, the digestive organs' actions are slowed down because the digestion process is not important during this time. Since you're about to fight or flee from this predator, digestive action is not relevant. If you are saved, the digestion can start again. That is why stress reaction slows down our digestion and sometimes it stopped the digestion entirely.
Increases muscles tension, to provide our body with extra speed and strength to run away and move as fast as we can from this predator.
Suppresses the immune system. Just like our digestive system, the immune system also takes a lot of energy. If we can save up our energy for our immune system and transfer that energy into our muscles instead to save our lives, then we can survive. And that is much more important right now.
Dilates our pupils, so that we can see more, and we can notice the smallest details around us to ensure our survival. When our pupils are dilated, we can see where the predators are going, and how fast they run towards us, this is all to prepare us to move fast too.
Speeds up blood clotting mechanism, in case of injuries. When we are injured and our blood isn't clotting fast, we can suffer from a massive blood loss that will decrease our chance of survival.
The Long Term Activation Of A Stress Response System
In today's life, we don't have to live in the forest anymore like our ancestors and to survive from predators like tigers, lions, cobras, etc. Most of us now are living in the cities which means, we are now being faced with different challenges such as office work, and we attach our survival mode to this office work. Look at it like this, no job, no income, no food, no roof over our head.
When we have problems at work, we see them as a threat to our survival. When this happens every day, we are activating our stress response every day too. Our body only knows fight, flight, and/or freeze reactions, where all that I've mentioned above will be repeated over and over and over again.
The thing is, when we are receiving a threat from our boss at work, we can't fight the boss or flee from the office because we will lose our job - and we do not want that. The fight and flight response are not suitable in this situation. But because of evolution, our body gets confused and doesn't know how to react. The same thing can happen in our relationships with our loved ones. If we fight, we'll break up - the same thing if we flee, we will break up also. It's such a problematic situation.
When we experience such stress, the cortisol level in our body goes high up. And when it does, it takes some time for it to come back to the normal level.
Imagine, you had a problem at work, your cortisol level goes high up, and before that cortisol level had a chance to go back down again, you're experiencing another stress in the traffic on your way home, so the cortisol level is going up high again. Before it had a chance to go back down, you arrived home, and had a fight with your spouse, again, the cortisol level goes way up high. The cortisol level remains high for a long period of time. This is what happens in chronic stress. Anxiety and depression are the results of continuous activation of fight and flight responses. Digestive problems such as acidity, colitis, ulcer, and indigestion, are all related to a stress response. Heart diseases and cardiovascular diseases also can be caused by high cortisol, which results in wear and tear of the heart muscles. Diabetes, higher blood sugar, which is needed to fight or flight, but on a prolonged activation will damage other organs. Headache and sleep problems are affected by high cortisol levels in the body. How can you sleep when you are being chased by a predator such as a tiger, lion, or in nowadays case, your boss? When sleep is affected, your nervous system will be affected too. The direct result of continued stress is also obesity or weight gain. Obesity is known to cause heart and cardiovascular diseases, it's a strong risk factor for diabetes and cancer. Nervous system disorders such as Alzheimer's, memory and concentration impairments, and dementia are all also connected with stress.
A study mentioned that we will age faster when we are stressed (accelerated aging).
If we are continuously stressed, our immune system is also continuously suppressed. If our immune system is continuously suppressed, we won't be able to heal from all kinds of diseases. When our immune system is compromised, cancer and autoimmune disorders start to develop, such as arthritis, Crohn's disease, lupus, etc.
Forms Of Stress:
Stress: fight & flight.
Anger: direct fight or flight stimulation.
Anxiety: hypersensitivity to flight & flight response.
Depression: dysfunctional to flight & flight response.
After reading all the above, now you know that the human body can perform at its best when relaxed and free of stress. It is now the time to rob one hour time off of your busy daily planner to take a conscious rest and digest moments for yourself. We have scheduled a Restorative Yoga for you, yoga for the nervous system.
All you need to do is to take the time to save yourself from chronic stress that can result from all those diseases mentioned above. And, no. Sleeping is not a conscious relaxation. You can get eight hours of sleep daily but still wake up feeling very fatigued and low energy. In Restorative Yoga you will consciously allow your physical body to rest, supported by tons of props such as bolsters, blankets, straps, eye pillows, blocks, and many more. You can watch your nervous system switch off its sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) into the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest).
Restorative Yoga is like a yummy dessert on the Yoga menu, it will re-calibrate your mind and muscles, leaving you in a state of complete ease.
Benefits of Restorative Yoga
Restorative Yoga is known to activate the Parasympathetic Nervous System of the body. So, when you relax in the class, your distressed nerves are soothed resulting in a complete mind-body rejuvenation.
The well-supported poses will offer you the opportunity to just linger quietly for a few moments and savor the simple sweetness of life.
After even a single session you’ll feel completely energized and relaxed. But with constant practice, you’ll be taking home a lot more than that. The benefits include:
Less vulnerable to stress-related illnesses
Achievement of optimal health and improved metabolism
Still and focused mind
Improved capacity to heal and balance life
Soothed out nervous system
Increased sense of compassion and understanding towards self and others