Did you know that when we are born, we are wired to stress? And luckily we are, as it helps us survive in this world! Hearing that the stress-mode in our nervous system is so easily accessible made it easier for me to understand and accept that I actually need to work a bit to find myself calm and relaxed. The rest and relax mode is the place where we are signalling to our nervous system that there are no dangers around, there is nothing to worry about, we can be calm.
What happens when we feel stressed is that we raise the levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the brain and body. Cortisol is a hormone we all need, but it is important to manage the levels of it. High levels of cortisol is the reason for anxiety, depression, heart attacks, etc. Whenever we are calm, cortisol levels come down, and we allow our body to be in a much healthier place. In the way we live today, the majority of us are “on” most of the time, i.e. cortisol levels are up. I do not think it is unusual to find that there is always so much to do, to take care of, and our unruly minds are truly good at constantly making us think about the past and worrying about the future. This is where the importance of practicing presence comes in!
Being calm is such a good place to be 🙂 Not calm as in an “I don’t care” way, but rather somewhere where your mind is STILL and ALERT, where there is a willingness to be present in this moment. For me, practicing yoga and meditation has helped me so much getting there more often, I cannot tell you!
I once listened to a neuroscientist who said that whenever she noticed she was stressed, she would start shaking, deliberately. In turn shaking her hands and arms, feet and legs, before standing firmly with both feet on the ground, shaking her whole body (if you try this please care for your neck, rather focusing on shaking your torso and arms). She said that by shaking, she was literally dispersing the stress held in her midbrain out to the part of the brain where emotions such as empathy and compassion are held. I taught this once in a session, and one of the ladies said she started practicing this and that it absolutely worked for her – stress gone for that moment!
In order to ensure that your cortisol levels stay at a healthy level, why not do something a few times every day to get rid of stress, whether it is going for walk, yoga practice, mindfulness meditation, any activity that you find gets you into a calmer state. It does not need to take long.
Having in mind the importance of healthy levels of cortisol, I would like to add a quote by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the mindfulness-based stress reduction program:
“Practice as if your life depended on it, as in many ways it does. More than you think.”