Stress can be harmful for our health at any time and goodness knows we’ve had plenty of external stress over the last couple of years. Our global situation has affected everyone to some level, and age has had no bearing on that.
Too much stress can eventually lead us to suffer with serious health concerns. These can range from burnout, anxiety and depression through to diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
As we age reducing our stress levels becomes even more important. This is because the amount of stress we experience affects our physical health and levels of wellbeing more than ever before. It’s even more so for women when menopause comes on the scene. Because too much stress can cause an increase in symptoms associated with the change. This is because when we get overly stressed it triggers our sympathetic nervous system, which amongst other things releases the stress hormone cortisol from our adrenals.
During and after menopause these organs are also the main place where oestrogen and progesterone are produced. But cortisol, because it’s linked to our survival response, takes precedence. Which means our levels of oestrogen and progesterone will lower even more if we have high levels of stress.
The sympathetic nervous system trigger is important when we need to step out of the way of an oncoming vehicle or run away from an assailant, because it helps us move with lightening speed. But in everyday situations it isn’t needed, in fact it creates more harm and suffering than good.
Managing stress often sounds easier said than done, especially when there is so much going on that we have no control over.
The thing is, we always do have control over ourselves and that’s what gives us the power to change how we feel. And this is often a lot simpler than you think.
There tends to be the perception that stress is caused by something external, but it isn’t. The stress is actually caused by the way we think about it. And if we change the way we think about it, then the stress will reduce.
In the beginning that can take time to get used to. And if we are actually in the stress response, then we’re unable to see past what we are feeling.
A very simple and easy practice to break that sympathetic nervous system trigger is to focus on our breath and it doesn’t cost you a cent! As we do this we can purposely breathe more deeply and slow our breath down. Just five minutes focusing on your breath will change how you feel. And there are so many benefits to slow and deep breathing.
Firstly it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system
This has the opposite effect to the sympathetic nervous system and you experience the state you normally have when you are resting. It slows your breath and heart rate down, and it undoes the harm done by the stress response.
With your stress levels lowered, you feel calmer and more able to see things in a different light. This means you will find it easier to see solutions and change things for the better.
Slow deep breathing gives your body more oxygen
When we shallow breathe as we do when we feel stressed, we develop an unhealthy balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in our body. By deepening and slowing our breath, we increase oxygen and decrease carbon dioxide.
The benefits of increased oxygen in our body are numerous from increased energy, clarity, memory retention and focus. Right through to strengthening our heart and our immune system.
With the added clarity and focus experienced through an increase in oxygen, we can also change our perception of the situation we reacted to. This makes the reduction in stress more sustainable.
Focusing on your breath can aid hormone production
If you are in menopause or post menopause you will know that symptoms associated with this change cause stress too, which can create a vicious cycle if we don’t stop it in it’s tracks.
By switching off our sympathetic nervous system we also reduce the release of cortisol. Without this stress hormone flooding our body we feel more at ease and we can think clearly again.
Another benefit of cortisol reduction is that our adrenals have a chance to produce some oestrogen and progesterone. And that means we can experience a reduction in the symptoms we might have been suffering with.
Finally, lowering stress improves our overall health and wellbeing
With regular stress reducing practices like focused deep breathing we are able to raise our stress threshold by rewiring our brain. This means that situations that would have normally triggered us in the past, no longer have the same effect. Or, we are able to change our response quite quickly.
The long-term benefits to our health, wellbeing and life are numerous. Because lets face it, stress not only affects our levels of wellness but other aspects of our life too including our relationships. Those long-term benefits that we seek are within our grasp and begin with just 5 minutes focused deep breathing each day.
To learn a simple and easy breathing practice to reduce your stress CLICK HERE.
If you find that stress and anxiety persists, mindset coaching, or meditation and yoga guidance can help. To see if this is the best approach for you, book your 15 minute complimentary call Here.