Recently, I was honored with an invitation to speak to a group of first responders (EMT’s, firefighters, and police officers) about benefits and methods of stress management. It seems I know a bit about this subject, not only through my chosen career, but also from my experience in raising a special needs child with a life threatening condition. I talked about various things including nutrition and free radicals versus antioxidants, our body’s hormonal response to stress and ways to manage that response such as exercise, breathing, meditation, and relaxing time off.
I was not surprised to find out that many of them did not spend their time off in a relaxing way. Some of them even watch stressful T.V. shows about first responders, thereby not even taking time off. We talked quite a bit about the fight or flight response and its effect on our body and overall health.
When we are in a life-threatening situation, our body immediately gears up for a very physical response. Stress hormones are released which allow us to react quickly and with physical strength and speed. Those hormones, if unused for a physical response, remain in the body and become a source of toxins. The byproducts of those hormones cause disease, premature aging, obesity, and more stress. Exercise and peaceful time off are important ways to decompress. Exercise uses and removes the stress hormones, and relaxation shuts off the fight or flight response. The amazing thing is that our body is easily fooled. If we watch T.V. about life-threatening situations, our body thinks it is real and has the same fight or flight reaction. The problem with that is we are sedentary and not using those hormones that are released for a strong, fast physical response meant to save our life or the life of a loved one. This is what we do to ourselves with what I call “toxic television.” The great thing is that we can fool ourselves either way. Spend time relaxing with calming music, walking in nature, laughing with loved ones, meditating, etc. and the fight or flight response is shut off.
One of the greatest benefits of my yoga practice I have learned and applied to life off of the mat is stress management. No matter what is happening around me, I am in charge of what is happening within me. That knowledge is both empowering and liberating.
Peace and love to you,