Pay Attention To Yourself

Daily maintenance processing emotional and bodily stress is highly necessary. This is especially so if you lead a high stress life. Dr Yesheen Singh from Health Nation explains the importance of knowing the body mind connection and engaging in practices to let off some steam.
Despite individual unique psychological and emotional reactions to a stressor, our biochemical responses are identical. Stress hormones like adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol are released by the adrenal glands that sit on top of our kidneys. These hormones set off a cascade of reactions within our body. In the short term they allow us to better cope with or overcome the challenges of life, be it a marauding lion or an inconsiderate road user. Ideally we pass through the ‘life or death’ situation, find closure, and release the built-up tension to return to calm, similar to tremoring springbuck after escaping the hungry lioness. But if we continuously hop from one stressful situation into another, irrespective of their gravity, we allow little time for release and recovery, and never return to healthy balance.

Science is now better able to explain how accumulated mental and emotional stress, also called allostatic load, causes damage to our cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, hormonal and immune systems, among others. The stress hormones affect our sleep-wake cycle, change our energy production pathways, overwork our detox organs and fuel the fires of inflammation that rapidly or slowly burn away at our physiological reserve. When this stress is continuous it usually happens that, one day ‘out of the blue’, we experience a fall from vitality. But is it the taxi driver or our reaction to him that is the origin of the sin? Here is where both Eastern and Western healing traditions speak with a united voice - more important than the amount of stress we experience, is our response to it. In fact, in our efforts to try and evade stress we invariably create further stress!

Sure, one should focus on reducing unnecessary stressors from life, but how do we manage the unavoidable stress? I liken the process to managing a pent-up pressure cooker - by opening the valve.

Our valves are our coping mechanisms. These are skills, disciplines, tools and habits we cultivate and engage with that allow us to ‘tremor off’ the accumulated stressors of the day and return back to our space of balance.

Try these for starters:
  • Move your body and spend time in nature. These are both multi-beneficial ways to help rid your body of the effects of stress.
  • Be more knowledgeable. Learn as much about the stressors in your life, be it your health, your rights or your belief systems, and be empowered to take action to change your life. Knowledge reduces the fear of the unknown and the misunderstood - with knowledge comes empowerment.
  • Cultivate a spiritual life. Spirituality, a stronger sense of self and a healthy social support network are also great coping mechanisms.
  • Add reflective practices. Meditation, keeping a journal, expressing creatively through painting, drawing or writing are all beneficial.
Yesheen Singh is a qualified medical doctor with a keen interest in integrative and functional medicine. His practice reflects a marriage of the technology and wisdom of western and eastern medical models, and focuses on the underlying contributors towards health imbalances. Find out more about him and Health Nation at www.healthnation.co.za or by emailing [email protected]



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