- What do you think about when you wake up?
- What do you think about as you’re drifting off to sleep at night?
- Are those answers often stressful thoughts?
Know the facts:
- What you think matters!
We all get stressed in life, especially when we have babies, toddlers or young people in the mix. We’re all trying to provide, to earn a living so we tend to work a little too much, maybe. At the same time, many of us have kids to take care of. Then there’s ourselves to take care of, cleaning to do, bills to pay / life admin, commuting to and from places, food to prepare and, hopefully, some time for socialising, etc., etc. So, I think there’s no denying we get stressed.
Sometimes though we get to a point where we just get used to being stressed all of the time. We start operating in a heightened state — it’s called ‘running on adrenaline’, and no, it’s not just a saying… Stress can be really damaging to your health. Adding extra body fat around your belly is also bad for your health. It can lead to sickness and is often the cause of digestive issues.
So, let’s unpack a little really basic science jargon about stress and we’ll see if I can offer some solutions to managing your stress better.
According to current science, us humans have been around for at least 150,000 years, and for probably at least 149,000 of those years humans did NOT have life admin to take care of! The main stress humans would go through would run something along the lines of a physical threat to our lives. For example, being stoned to death or stabbed with a spear by another tribe member or maybe being eaten by something bigger and faster than us. So, humans being a pretty evolved and adaptable species, we have made some quite clever physiological/biochemical responses to stress to help our survival.
When there’s a physical threat to life, our brain will very quickly respond by doing a couple of key things. Your sympathetic nervous system quickly takes control and instructs your adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and cortisol. This means we basically can either freeze, flee or fight to survive. This basic human bodily response has been an automatic reaction to stress for ions of time because it’s what we’ve done to survive.
However, the human body still has not evolved to interpret the difference between modern-day mental stress, i.e. stressful life admin or work deadlines, compared to very olden day real physical threats to your life types of stress.
It’s true! The next time you’re running late because your baby has just done a giant poo in their nappy, or your toddler is having their own version of getting ready or anything along those lines, there are a few things likely to happen to you if you can’t manage your thoughts and stress levels. These are:
Your brain activity shifts from the logical decision making part of the brain to the reptile survival part, so good decisions tend to get hazy. In this state of mind, parents tend to snap more at kids.
Your digestive function is impaired because blood is directed away from the gut and to your arms and legs, so your ability to digest food gets worse.
It’s impossible to access fat as a fuel source because cortisol pulls fast acting energy (glycogen/sugar) from their storage sites (muscles & liver) to be used for action, so the process of fatty acid breakdown is SLOW!
You stop breathing properly. Rather than breathing into your belly as we all should in a relaxed state, you start to take shallow breaths.
These physical reactions to stress are all part of the sympathetic nervous system. They are fine when it happens occasionally. They are absolutely essential for survival if you were actually faced with a life-threatening moment. The thing is, most people, especially Mums, are getting stressed way too often – every day – over stuff that does not deserve to be stressed over.
How do I know this? I work with Mums every day. I have done so for over a decade and I observe body language a lot! People carry stress in their body and on their face, so there’s no hiding chronic stress.
To be healthy – and I hate referring to weight loss but I will – to lose body fat, we must spend as much time in our parasympathetic nervous system mode as possible. This is where we can be rested and relaxed, our brain receives better blood flow and functions better, our digestive systems work optimally and we can access fat as a fuel source!
Here’s how you can engage your parasympathetic nervous system and learn to bring your stress down in less than 20 seconds. It’s the simplest technique to what I do in my personal training classes.
Learn to breathe deeply! Ta-da! Like I said above, when you stress you stop breathing properly until you calm down. If you always stress you begin to learn to always breathe this way and then you become chronically stressed.
So, I want you to grab moments throughout your day to take 10 big long deep breaths through your nose, imagining the breath is passing all the way down through your lungs, filling up your belly and reaching your toes! Then breathe out through your mouth for as long as you possibly can until you’re gasping for your next breath in! You can be in any position, ideally in a position where your lungs are not being compressed too much such as slouching in a seat.
This is the best and most efficient method of bringing stress levels down in an instant.
Now go do some breaths Mummas!