Our body has a peculiar way of making itself heard - often by making us uncomfortable. While humans in general are amazingly resilient, we do have our limits and our body will tell us when the limit is reached. At this point, it’s up to us to listen and to change something. If we don’t, we often pay the price for our negligence. You might have noticed that yourself after a stressful month at work: Somehow, you managed to power through, but the instant you are on holiday, you get sick.
After investigating a bit on why you fell ill, you suddenly realize that your body has tried to tell you to slow down a while ago. For example, you might have felt more tired than usual, or headaches and neck tension showed up. This was your body telling you that it's overworked and by sending you pain. Its intention was to protect you from further damage which long-term stress can cause.
When we're stressed, our sympathetic nervous system works overtime, not giving our parasympathetic nervous system enough time to rest-and-digest and repair our body. Therefore, important jobs like digesting our food, detecting and killing harmful cells (that might cause cancer one day) are taking a backseat. Because the body is preoccupied during a stressful time, thinking your life is at stake, it simply isn’t able to prioritize protecting itself from viruses, bacteria and other harmful intruders.
They can pretty much just walk into your system, undetected and make you sick.
Taking a break and giving your body enough time to regenerate is most important. Creating awareness, that ‘pushing through’ only benefits us short-term, is an important step to minimizing long term-damage.
But there are ways to help shift our body back into rest-and-digest mode:
1) Breathing exercises are a great way to lower levels of our most prominent stress hormone - cortisol.
2) Meditating can help shift the mind into a calmer state and lessen the effects of going through stressful situations.
Essentially, anything that will help you breathe more slowly will send signals to your brain that you are safe and can be beneficial.
One of my favourite breathing exercises is the 4-6 breathe:
Breathe in for 4 seconds, breathe out for 6. If you want, you can even pause for a few seconds after each inhale and exhale. I aim for about 5 to 10 breath cycles and then check in with myself whether my heart rate has slowed down.
Give it a try and tell me how you feel after !
Health and Fitness have always played an important role in my life.