It’s no secret that stress has enormous implications on your health. Simply living in the hectic, modern world triggers the same biological response our ancestors needed for real, physical dangers. It’s called the fight-or-flight response. But today, events that have no real threat, such as sitting in traffic jams or filling out tax forms, are activating it. The sheer number of stress-inducing situations that we face daily makes it difficult to power down the stress response, which has serious consequences for your health.
Stubborn fat, high blood pressure, poor sleep, heart attacks—these are just a few of the many health problems associated with today’s chronic stress. Acute stress can have equally dangerous repercussions; and since your mind and heart are closely intertwined, your mental state has a significant impact on your heart health.
Case in point—doctors speculated that Debbie Reynolds died from a broken heart. The stress she felt from the death of her daughter caused a sudden release of large amounts of stress hormones and a likely elevation in blood pressure. This can trigger a heart attack or stroke, even if you don’t have a known heart problem. In the case of broken heart syndrome, the symptoms of a heart attack can occur even though there is no actual damage to the heart. Broken heart syndrome is a temporary condition where your heart muscles become suddenly weakened or stunned, due to the sudden release of large quantities of adrenaline and other stress hormones.
Recent research suggests, that stress increases your risk of heart attack and stroke by causing over-activity in your amygdala, your brain’s fear center, which activates in response to real or perceived threats. Based on brain scans, researchers have concluded that people with higher activity in the amygdala have a higher risk of cardiac events and arterial inflammation. When your amygdala is triggered, oxygen is shunted away from your internal organs and to the extremities, in preparation of fight-or-flight. Your body is prepared for fighting at this point, not thinking.
Most of our stressful encounters, however, don’t need a physical response but do require a change to our thinking. The three keys to calmness are breathing, relaxation, and visualization.
The first critical step is to bring oxygen back to your brain. Try breathing in a full, deep breath; hold that breath for the mental count of three; and then let the breath out with a sigh. If this sounds familiar to you, it’s because this is a technique we often employ in our BrainTap audio sessions. It’s specifically designed to bring oxygen back to the brain to calm and relax you.
- Sit up straight and place the tip of your tongue up against the back of your front teeth. Keep it there through the entire breathing process.
- Breathe in silently through your nose to the count of four, hold your breath to the count of seven and exhale through your mouth to the count of eight, making an audible “whoosh” sound. That completes one full breath.
- Repeat the cycle another three times, for a total of four breaths. After the first month, you can work your way up to a total of eight breaths per session.
Once you’ve re-oxygenated your brain, you’ll begin to feel your body relax, but it’s important to continue the journey and engage in activities that combat daily stress. One of the most powerful ways to create the relaxation response is with creative visualization and relaxation. Imagery is the natural language of your brain, which is why visualization exercises are so powerful for changing thoughts and behaviors, such as our response to stress. Spending 10 to 20 minutes daily, engaged in this activity, will interrupt the stress response and allow your body to return to equilibrium.
Fortunately, you hold the keys to relaxation at your fingertips in the BrainTap app platform with more than 700 guided audio sessions. The BrainTap platform is an effective tool for helping you breathe deeply and naturally—re-oxygenating your system—and creating a relaxing meditative experience. You can combat the damaging effects of stress in a relaxing, 20-minute session, every day. It couldn’t be easier to maintain your health and wellbeing. Just download the app, choose a session, and push play! For a FREE Trial Click Here
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