This week was about the topic stress. First we will dive into this topic and will discover that we need stress to survive and to reach goals and on the other hand too much stress or better chronic stress can be the cause of many health problems;
- 80% of doctor visits is stress related and stress is nr.3 in health expenditure (after heart disease and cancer).
After the lectures about stress and the impact on the processes in the body we will discover how we can handle and use stress in a positive way, supporting our well- being.
Finding your balance
What is stress?
“Everybody knows what stress is but nobody knows it really” (Dr.Hans Selye)
The experience of stress is very subjective. What is stressful for one person is for another person a challenge.
We can divide stress in two parts:
Acute or Functional Stress prepares our bodies for a challenge. It provokes a pike in cortisol and a small increase in blood pressure and when the stressor is gone the body relaxes.
However Chronic Stress provokes a continue high level of cortisol and blood pressure stays high and the body does not come in the recovery mode. This will lead to diseases because Chronic Stress impact all organ systems in the body.
Stress is a part of our lives and we will continue to meet stressors so we can not get it out of the way. However what we can learn is the way how we react or respond. But first a look in our bodies:
What happens in a stress situation?
For the answer we are going to look first to the Nervous System
The nervous system controls all the processes in our body together with the endocrine system. Looking at the Nervous System first we see the somatic nervous system controlling the voluntary function as moving your arm. The stress respons however is controlled by the Autonomic nervous system. This autonomic nervous system consists of 2 parts:
The Sympathetic part: this part prepares the body for fight or flight (gas handle)
The Parasympathetic part: this part brings the body in recovery mode (brake)
The nervous system works together with the endocrine system via the hypothalamus and this system produces hormones which take care of the chemical information needed to handle stress.
This system regulates temperature, sleep, hunger, thirst etc. and also the stress respons:
In case of a threatening event this system produces finally in the adrenal glands the stress hormones in the bloodstream.
Normally after an acute stressor the body tries to go back to a balanced state this is called homeostasis. This is a proces in our body that is called allostasis. So when we are experiencing many stressors, which can come from outside and also from inside our body. Inside our body is mainly thinking and in many cases negative thinking, you can imagine that this proces (allostasis) has to work hard and this causes a progressive wear and tear of the body. This wear and tear of the body is called the allostatic load. And this causes the stress related diseases.
The allostatic load leads to an autonomic imbalance:
With stress the SNS is dominating the PNS.
Premature aging and diseases are the markers of this imbalance.
One of the first things what is affected is our Self-Regulation capability, and this is what we need most in fruitful coping with stress.
Yoga can help to rebalance the autonomic nervous system.
Yoga can be a solution because it can bring us from our heads into our bodies. It focusses on:
- Body awareness
- Breathing techniques
These can first of all calm our nervous system.
And then further with Mindfulness we can strengthen our Self- Regulation capabilities. With these we can develop a more productive stress respons. And also further more in many facets of our live we can experience big advantages for instance in our work, in our relations etc. This develops very well our Emotional Intelligence which is the key to thrive or flower.
As a stress counsellor i work with a model what i call the 7G’s and the HOE_RA model. The G’s and HOE_RA are the beginning letters (Dutch) of the different processes.
First the 7 G’s are the beginning letters of how we experience and respond in daily live. Responding on a stressor is one example of this proces.
- Gebeurtenis (What happens) is something from outside in this case the stressor.
- Gedachten (Our Thoughts) These can also be the cause of stress and especially of chronic stress.
- Gevoelens (What we feel)
- Gemoedstoestand (Our mood)
- Gedragsimpulsen (Our impulses to react)
- Gedrag (Our behavior)
- Gevolg (The results of our behavior)
Then the HOE_RA is the mindful responding on a stressor
- Herken (Notice) this is where mindfulness is very important. Notice what happens in your body as a reaction.
- Observeer (Observe) experience that what you feel without judgement. Bring your awareness to your body (mindful breath in and out)
- Erken (Acknowledge), Let it be, accept that what is (even if you disagree). It is a fact.
- _ Stands for the Pause, this creates the space where you can make space for a healthy answer. This is your freedom.
- Reflecteer (Reflect), what is the best way to respond? Is it necessary to react? Is it good for me and the other person(s).
- Antwoord (Answer), very important to do this, to act. And even not acting can be your choice.
This proces can be practiced in real live situations and the first part in very important to create the space. Practicing this creates many freedom. It gets you out of your auto pilot.
The process is easy but very difficult to implement, what is needed is a firm commitment and dedication.
The practices in this weeks course are very similar.
By practicing first Yoga (since 20 years) and later adding this with Mindfulness i can say that many things in my live have changed for the positive. And from this experience i changed my work field from a marketing and sales manager (speaking about stress!) to my own practice as a stress counsellor. I still develop myself in Yoga and Mindfulness and the real live practices and in my work i have developed some more low threshold mindbody activities to help people suffering with stress.
What i always do is bringing the attitude (of myself also) coming from Yoga and Mindfulness:
- With Curiosity
- Without Judgement
- With Compassion
And what i noticed is this also what Kristin Neff told in here video about Self- Compassion and that this is an important key.
For more on Self Compassion click here science of self-compassion
So here is the importance illustrated of Self- Regulation and Self- Compassion for your walking, running, breathing, working etc. Shortly affecting all area’s of your live.