Stress is commonly referred to as the body’s fight or flight response. This is handled by a part of our body called the Sympathetic Nervous System. I like to think of it as our gas pedal. When you’re busy during the day with to-do lists, high performance demands, deadlines and multi-tasking, your gas pedal is floored to the ground. Although this is acceptable at certain times, it becomes dangerous and unhealthy when your entire day is “pedal to the metal”.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System is the relaxation response that your body performs to repair from the hectic pace that you’ve set during the day. This would be the brake that you apply when the car needs to slow down. This system is typically activated at rest and during sleep.
The problem is many of us spend 17 hours with the gas pedal floored and expect to achieve balance with maybe 7 hours of sleep. And the sleep we get is not really restful. Many of us are tossing and turning, thinking and rehashing, planning and anticipating, all throughout the night. We awake still tired and foggy. We reach for the shot of caffeine and sugar filled snacks for a boost. In an attempt to regain sanity, many will succumb to sleeping pills, anti-anxiety medication and alcohol. Although for some people, these may be necessary, for others these are nothing more than temporary fixes that lead to a whole host of side effects. What happens even to the best luxury car when the gas pedal has been floored and then you slam on the brake? Smoke! This is not a good sign. How do you think our bodies deal with this? Illness.
Science has shown that expressing GRATITUDE during periods of stress and anxiety can activate the relaxation centers of the brain. This is also very helpful before bedtime. Another tool is BREATHING exercises. Breathe from the chest to the belly, stopping momentarily at the heart to give thanks and send love. MEDITATION for only minutes can also reach this place of balance. The key to improving this vicious cycle is to practice MINDFULNESS throughout the day. Respect yourself and be aware that you are needed. Practice a few of these ideas and see if you can learn to coast during the day.