Take a second to think about your past week. How often did you feel overwhelmed, tired or busy? If you’re like me and the majority of other millennials, you probably felt a mix of those emotions more than just once.
Everyone is expected to do it all, document it, and then add a Valencia filter to share with the world. With the constant pressure for success comes a higher opportunity for stress to creep in on our lives. Sometimes stress can push us to do our best work, but our bodies have to learn how to cope with the stress in a way that we can return to normal and maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle.
So how do we handle stress and create a lifestyle we can sustain?
According to an article by the New York Times, “to handle stress and adversity more effectively, we should probably pay closer attention to what is happening inside our bodies.” That is to say, our bodies naturally have the truest sense of how we are feeling – that “gut” feeling – about situations. Often times we let our minds take over and keep pushing ourselves through hard times without acknowledging the impact it is having on our bodies. This results in an overreaction at the end of a hard time, and it is a lot harder to swim back from the deep end than wading through the shallow.
The negative impact of an overreaction was explored through a study in which researchers did a brain scan while both athletes and average men and women wore face masks that had periodic and sporadic times when they would limit the participant’s breath. (Hello, one of my biggest fears of not being able to breathe!)
The majority of the athletes had notable results: that the portions of their brains that receive and process signals from the body, such as change in heart rate or breathing, were very active throughout the activity. Since they were aware of their body and their environment, they were able to handle the moments of breathlessness in a composed and calm manner. The researchers defined this as resilience – they were resilient physically and mentally to deal with stress.
However, when the same experiment was done on a group of people who were identified as having low resilience, they behaved in the opposite way. They were not aware of the signals their body was receiving and then overreacted when the air was constricted, making it harder for their bodies to return back to a balanced state.
So how does this apply to us and how can we make sure we handle stress in the best way?
We can note how we are dealing with busy times in our lives. Instead of letting work pile up and not asking for help or taking a break, recognize your limitations. Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of help from a colleague to feel like you’re back in control. One of my best friends is an Accountant and her busy season is wretched. If you, like her, know you have a busy time in which you’ve found yourself feeling uncontrollably overwhelmed in the past, build in breaks where you reconnect with what is important to you, and know that there is no shame in asking for help. Little breaks to recognize that the stressful time is not the only focus in your life will help prevent it from growing to a point that you can’t recover from.
Becoming more connected with our bodies can also be done through physical exercise. Through the awareness built from yoga practice – both with your body and with breathing – you can build up a stronger resilience. Though it may seem like a line from a dramatic movie, taking deep breaths can help calm your reaction and improve the way you respond to a stressful situation. It will bring balance back into your body and help you tackle the situation at hand.
Connect your mind, body and soul, take a deep breath, and rule your busy schedules with resilience!