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Choose Your Response To Stress

We all experience stress in our daily lives. The intensity may vary for each person and so does our ability to deal with it. It is believed that some level of stress is good for us and tends to work as a silent motivator to push us to improve our lives. It’s only when the stress levels rise and start to impact other aspects of our lives is when it becomes a reason for concern.

According to data published by the Global Organization for Stress75% of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month and nearly half reported that their stress has increased in the past year – American Psychological Association. There’s more statistics available on this site if you’re interested.

So what is stress and how is it caused?

The official definition of stress as per the Oxford dictionary is “A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances“.

Whenever you feel any kind of threat or encounter an unwelcome circumstance, your natural stress response to it is that of either “fight or flight“. You will either face it or run away from it. In that ‘fight or flight’ moment, your body triggers a cascade of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, that surge through the body, speeding heartbeat and the circulation of blood, mobilizing fat and sugar for fast energy, focusing attention, preparing muscles for action, and more. It generally takes some time for the body to calm down after the stress response has been triggered.

Thankfully this kind of life-saving response is short-lived and not extended to day-to-day struggles of life. However, periodic and repeated arousal of the stress response can lead to harmful physiological and psychological effects such as heart disease and depression.

How does stress affect you?

Stress, if left unchecked can lead to many health problems ranging from minor headaches, muscle tension and sleep disorder to more serious issues like depression, addiction, anxiety and lack of motivation.

However, there is evidence to show that you can control your response to stress and in turn avoid all of the above physiological and psychological issues. If you understand that stress is not caused by other people or the external stimuli, but by your own reactions to it, you will realize that you have a lot more control over it and are in a better position to manage it.

Often our natural and intuitive response to stress or threat doesn’t necessarily result in the best possible outcome. And if we link this to the different environments that we operate it such as in the office, in a relationship or at home, you will agree that on more than one occasion you wished you had reacted differently. An impulsive reaction can sometimes cause irreversible damage. At these times don’t you wish you had controlled your outburst?

Once we understand that pressure is not stress and the only way pressure gets converted to stress is by constantly worrying about it, playing it in your mind over and over and attaching too many negative thoughts and energies to it, you will gain an extremely important insight in to the art of stress-management. Learning to be objective about unpleasant and unwanted situations is the key to handling them.

We all have our own way of responding to stressful situations. It is, however, possible to train your mind to deviate from your natural stress response and behave in a completely different manner. There are several techniques available in Yoga that you can apply to not only reduce stress but also train your mind to be less impulsive and reactive to an unwanted situation.

Mindfulness and meditation practices too are excellent ways to calm your mind, be objective about what’s happening to you and learn to control your impulses. During your formal meditation practices, you learn to bring your attention to the present by focusing on your breathing while diverting your mind from thinking about the past or worrying about the future. As you progress in this practice, you will find that you’re able to apply the same technique even in present life crisis or stressful situations.

Yoga practices to manage stress

The following asanas are recommended to manage stress, anxiety and any nervous tension:

Some or all of the below listed pranayama practices help calm your senses:

Remember it’s eventually about the attitude that you adopt towards life. I quote Victor E Frankl, author of the famous book Man’s Search For Meaning “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose that response. In our response, lies our growth and freedom.”

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