Fall is here. Kids are back in school. I think we all feel a little bit like the party’s over and it’s time to get back to work. It is also a good time, I think, to remember that stress has a tendency to increase as we become more intensely involved in work projects, homework (ours or our children’s), and home projects. Overall, life can just feel a little more serious with the approaching cool weather. This makes stress management even more important.
Why do I spend so much time talking about stress and relaxation? I am fascinated with the human body – how it forms before birth, how it works, and what improves health. I have learned a lot about the effects stress has on the body, both positive and negative, and the way stress can affect eating and health. I know that for most people my knowledge of food and nutrition is only a part of what I need to incorporate into a plan for healthier eating. Stress, along with all of the other human emotions, can derail the most carefully developed food plan in seconds.
While you read this, whether or not you have extra weight you would like to lose, take a deep breath, really deep. Fill you lungs with air. When is the last time you did that? Most of us take short, shallow breaths almost all the time. OK – you can exhale now!
When my life was more hectic, with kids at home and more activities, it was more difficult to find time for myself. I completely understand when people tell me they have no time to get a massage, or even a bath. It is especially important for busy people, particularly parents, to remember the simple stress relievers like deep breathing.
I have mentioned this simple method of relaxation in several of my posts, but I think it is so important that I will keep bringing it up. Chronic stress truly takes a toll on the body, every part of it. Steady brain destruction is produced by the excess cortisol (stress hormone) and reactions to it in the body. This can actually cause memory loss.
Chronic stress can also cause damage to the vascular system by increasing blood pressure and affecting the blood vessels. Normal stress that comes and goes is necessary to keep motivated and productive, but we need breaks from the biological effects. Other body systems can be negatively affected as well. The body simply finds it difficult to constantly stay in the “ready mode” – ready for fight or flight. Constant stress is essentially a state of constant high alert.
This is where deep breathing comes in. It is easy, cheap (free, actually), and always accessible – much like food without the calories! This is why it can make such a difference for weight control. It also slows the pulse, lowers blood pressure, calms the mind, and soothes the internal organs. All of this will extend and improve life.
Get outside. It is a perfect time of year to check out the fall colors and breathe some good fresh air. You will be doing your body a huge favor. With regular deep breathing for a minute or two each day, whenever you need it most, you may even find that you are developing a very powerful weight loss tool as well.