by Kris Denning
Today, as I write this, I feel a primal need to get an exhaustive, stress relieving workout. This morning, a fire broke out in our yard debris bin, burning it to the ground and catching some nearby branches on fire. Immediately I was in fight or flight mode. I rushed to throw my husband the fire extinguisher as I ran for the hose. Without thought, we quickly went to work extinguishing the flames until it was clearly out.
Then I sat. Staring at the 4 by 4-inch section of what was left of our yard cart, thinking about how lucky we were that we managed to put the fire out before it had engulfed our trees, and then our home. My breath was shallow and quick. My stomach was in knots with all the nervous tension, and my mind was on a continuous loop pondering all the “what-ifs”.
During stressful situations like these, when our fight or flight mode is activated, our sympathetic nervous system floods our body with hormones like adrenaline. The heart rate, blood pressure, and the pace of our breath increase as our body prepares to deal with the stress. This is good if the stress is acute, as when we are facing an emergency. I needed that adrenaline to help me leap out of my bed and to the fire extinguisher. This can be problematic however, when the issue is ongoing and involves underlying stress.
When our mind interprets an event as stressful – even if we just get worked up watching the news, our sympathetic nervous system creates the same reaction. If we don’t “fight”, or “flight” (physically react to the stress), the continued stress response just festers inside of us, increasing our risk for obesity, hypertension, heart attack, and stroke. Even more critical, in this current age of the pandemic, is that underlying stress breaks down our immune system.
Almost of us are at least a little bit stressed right now. The news is on a 24-hour virus watch, and social media feeds are reflecting the stress that everyone is projecting out, when they should probably just be running it off or meditating. The bottom line is that we cannot afford for our immune systems to be suffering right now.
Here are some ways to keep your mind and body in the right place – even if there’s a fire…
Start your morning off with peace. Rather than waking up to worries, let your first thoughts be of gratitude. There is always something to be grateful for. Perhaps listen to positive affirmations or a guided meditation. Drink water first thing and throughout the day. Eat nutritious healthy foods to fuel your body. Sugar breaks down the immune system, so keep that to a minimum. If ya gotta have the cake, then ditch the soda. Take vitamin D daily.
Avoid the news and social media or give yourself a set amount of time to watch it then leave it. Exercise every single day even if just taking a 20-minute walk. Engage in activities that bring you joy. When you do find yourself under stress over things you have no control over, acknowledge it. Then close your eyes and take deep, calming breaths. Trust in knowing, that like everything else you have survived in your life – this too shall pass.
We are all in this together. Take care of yourself, stay positive, and mask up.
Kris Denning is a regular contributor to Willamette Living and a local health professional. Kris offers yoga and pilates classes online, for free. Visit her website at: healthytothesoul.com