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In our faced-paced world of persistent connection, stress is unavoidable. Even decades before social media and cellphones though, stress was still unavoidable. We as humans have never known a time without stress and there are many experts who also tout the benefits of some stress in creating meaning and motivation in our lives. So stress is not always bad, and it is always present, so how do we balance that along with the knowledge that chronic, persistent, invasive stress is one of the greatest risks to our health and well-being there is? The answer is to find your own methods of stress resilience. Notice we did not say stress elimination or even really stress management. Sometimes you cannot control the source of stress or how long it endures, but you CAN control how you respond to it. In our final installment of this Back to Basics series, we will explore the fundamentals of stress resilience, from understanding the different types of stress to identifying ways to promote emotional and physical well-being while living alongside it.

Types of Stress

Stress comes in many forms, each impacting us in unique ways. Acute stress is a short-term burst of stress with a definite end point that often can be beneficial. Think about a workout where you had an increased heart rate and sweat but ultimately felt great afterward. Or a deadline on your work project that forced you to muscle through it and produce an amazing end product you were proud of. These quick bursts of acute stress put the body into fight or flight mode and trigger a cascade of hormones that prepare us to focus, act swiftly and efficiently and reach a goal. It’s when these stressors do NOT have an end in sight that we run into trouble with chronic stress. Stress that will not go away (whether in actuality or perhaps we just perceive it that way), can have profound impacts on both emotional and physical health.

The Impact of Chronic Stress

The fight or flight response that is so beneficial to short term stress becomes detrimental when we live in that mode too long. Our physiological processes of digestion, circulation, rational thinking, creativity and even immunity all take a pretty significant backseat to inflammation, increased heart rate, anxiety and inability to sleep. The irritability, mood swings, fatigue and even persistent illness that clearly occurs from staying in this mode of stress too long also impacts our relationships, work environment and any other social settings which can feel isolating and only further exacerbate mental health symptoms.

Lifestyle Interventions for Stress Resilience

Cultivating stress resilience involves adopting healthy lifestyle habits and coping strategies that bolster our ability to bounce back from challenges and find positivity and joy. Keep in mind that there are MANY strategies that all have beneficial research behind them so we encourage you to try several until you find the ones that resonate best with you. Also keep in mind that stress resilience is a muscle that needs to be exercised in order to function when needed. One yoga class or meditation session isn’t going to cut it, and if you’ve never tried these things may not feel good at all at first. Practice, practice, practice – as with any lifestyle intervention, consistency is key. Here are some of our favorite stress resilience techniques:

  • Build a Strong Support Network. Meaningful relationships and regular social interactions are some of the top indicators of overall health for all populations. Isolation and loneliness increase risk of cognitive decline, emotional dysregulation and overall mental health.
  • Optimize Sleep. Lack of quality sleep results in a stress response to start your day, meaning you will be more susceptible to the stressors that inevitably come your way.
  • Minimize Social Media. Yes you need social interaction. No that does not mean on a screen. Meaningful social interactions occur in person or if online, person to person; not in chat groups or Instagram comment sections. Strop scrolling and start talking to someone instead.
  • Breath Work & Mind-Body Exercises. There are so many ways to practice mindfulness and connect to your breath. You don’t have to meditate on a pillow for an hour in order to reap the benefits of slow, deep breaths on calming down your nervous system. Here are several other ways to practice breath work and mind-body connection:

 

Previous Posts in this Back to Basics Series:

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See our Video page for many short videos to experience breath work, yoga, stretch or sound bath at home!