For years we’ve known that frequent and intense exposure to stress can be damaging on our physical and psychological well-being, but recent studies show that long-term stress can become like a drug—one we can easily become addicted to.
Let’s break this whole thing down. The body responds to stress by releasing the hormone cortisol into the blood stream. This is beneficial as it gives us our “fight or flight” response: short bursts of increased energy, immunity and decreased sensitivity to pain, followed by a corresponding relaxation response that brings us back into balance. When stress levels are amplified to the extreme, the body doesn’t have time to relax and this results in a cortisol overload called “chronic stress.”
The danger of living in chronic stress is that our body’s physical response is to become inflamed, like an engine that runs too hot. This prolonged inflammation can cause a host of health problems that include high blood pressure and degraded cognitive functions that affect our ability to focus and remember things, but the worst thing it does is turn stress into an addictive drug that we can’t function without.
When we’re left feeling burned out and struggling to find a way to cope, it becomes easier to rely on the body’s natural stress response for the boost of energy we crave. Instead of cultivating the resiliency we need to deal with constantly shifting circumstances, we look for our next “fix” to get us past the situation. It’s a vicious cycle and the longer we operate like this, the sooner it can to catch up with us.
Fortunately, studies show that mindfulness can help. By introducing a trigger to initiate your relaxation response, mindfulness can have a ‘cooling’ effect on the inflammatory processes of the body. Yoga, breathing exercises and meditation are all great options for re-training your body to match stress responses with relaxation responses, break the addiction cycle and bring you into a mindful balance.
Your AMN Team
About A Mindful Nation:
In one of the most optimistic books to come out of Washington during these trying times, Congressman Tim Ryan presents us with an inspiring and hopeful view of our country’s future—and a roadmap for how to get there. Across America, people are feeling squeezed, exhausted, and running faster and faster while falling farther behind. The economy continues to struggle, wars rage on, and every week brings news of another environmental disaster. Everything seems broken and people feel helpless to make a difference. Despite this bleak outlook, there are strands of quiet hope and confidence. People are beginning to take action in a new way: they are slowing down, paying attention, and gaining an awareness of the inner resources at their disposal. http://www.amindfulnation.org/