We’ve heard all about the negative effects of stress-and believe me, there are many! Stress can come from anywhere and anything from a busy schedule, over-bearing boss, paying the bills, starting a new workout routine, the workout itself, and even feeling guilty about missing a workout or slipping up and “splurging” on dessert one night. We all have stress in our life, and built in physiological mechanisms to handle that stress. In fact, we have an entire system designed to monitor and react to stress- the Sympathetic Nervous System. This system is an incredibly cool system that starts in the brain, but branches out through the body. It’s primary priority is our immediate safety and survival, and it’s primary function is prediction. Our brain is continuously taking in billions of signals each second from inside the body and from the world around us, processing those signals and responding accordingly. It is a very sophisticated response system- “Fight or Flight”- but not a very discerning system as to what type of stress or “threat” you’re experiencing and how much danger you’re actually in. As stresses are perceived, blood flow to the brain will change in order to fuel the most important centers of the brain that will help in our immediate survival- our visual, sensory, and quick response centers so we can quickly get to safety. The executive part of the brain in the front- the part that actually has the ability to discern and decide- gets less fuel and blood flow. (Think about hiking on a trail and the “jump” you get when you notice the snake out of the corner of your eye that ends up being a stick.) What does this mean? It means the more stressed we get, the harder it becomes to make an intelligent decision that will help us get rid of that stress. It’s a vicious cycle! So what do we do about it? For one, just being aware of this process is a good step in being able to “right the ship” before it gets out of control. Other strategies for managing your stress: Move!: The “Executive Center” of the brain lives right in front of the movement center. Some good, intentional and quality movement will help fuel that executive center and make your decisions a little easier to come by. Sleep!: Sleep is how we reset and refresh. If you don’t take time to recover, eventually you’ll run out of fuel! Breathe!: Seated, slow breathing also helps to reset your system and balance your blood PH. Slow breathing into the nose for 4 counts, then out through the mouth for 6-8 counts will help reset the oxygen/carbon dioxide balance and can help “clear the mind.” Minimizing stressors and improving the body’s ability to safely respond to many types of stress is the key to living a long, healthy, and happy life. Don’t let it bog you down- beware of what’s happening in your body and take an action step to improve it!

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