5 Science Inspired Ways to Banish Stress for Good

posted on 2/12/2019 in Blog

We all know stress can kill. But how do you get rid of it? Check this out.

It's been estimated by the American Psychological Association that over 80 percent of us suffer from chronic low-grade stress. Chronic or elevated stress burns us out, and can kill.

Stress leads to tangible changes inside many the cells of the body. Stress triggers specific genes to express proteins which lead to inflammation; and chronic inflammation is associated with killers such as heart disease and cancer. Over time, stress reduces our ability to prevent ageing, heal wounds and fight infections. Excess stress also stops us learning new things, and if we aren't learning, we aren't growing.

Whether our stress is due to worry, fear, confusion, over-work, or being overwhelmed, if we let our powerful, biological stress response dominate our everyday lives, we may survive to pass on our genes... but are unlikely to thrive as we do so.

Here are 5 science inspired ways to better handle the stress in your life!

1. Breathe, stop (and shake)

When we are stressed, adrenaline gets pumped throughout the body, increasing our heart rate and making us breathe both fast and shallow. According to Harvard Medical School, just a few, easy deep breaths — ideally from your abdomen not your neck — will reset the system a little and shift you toward relaxation. 

2. Get curious

Your upper brain contains, amongst other things, your prefrontal cortex - which plays a major role in attention, motivation and executive thinking. It doesn’t work very well when under stress. In fact, we have to wait until we’re calm before it can help us approach situations with maximum insight and intelligence. 

Curiosity hacks the stress response by engaging our upper brain and prefrontal cortex... shifting us into reflection rather than rumination (which is what we are doing when we toss worries around our mind over and over again). On study has shown that the more curious we are, the better the quality of our attention. So we can create the right conditions for ourselves to be creative and adaptable with the stresses and strains of life by staying curious.

3. Hug it out

Hugging a loved one releases oxytocin, which reins in our stressed-out sympathetic nervous system, and seems to drive the repair of muscles, brain tissue and neurones. The more often we hug, the lower our heart rate and blood pressure tends to be, and so the more resilient we become to stress. Give someone you trust a hug. Hugging strangers can actually create more stress!

4. Get into your body

The insula in our cerebral cortex integrates information from the brain and body together. Advanced meditators, experienced warriors, and top athletes have a highly developed insula. They share a heightened ability to sense what’s going on in their bodies and act on it. They can anticipate a change in emotional state, which then helps them stay in peak condition during moments of stress on the battlefield. By getting to know your own body sensations better, you can boost the capacity of your insula to help you navigate through life.

Elite troops and meditators who have increased insula activity also have enhanced vagus nerve tone, which seems to help them perform better under stress. Doctors have been experimenting with stimulating the vagal nerve within the chest to treat depression and increase the speed of healing after paralysis from stroke. Scientists at McGill suggest that you can activate your own vagal nerve and builds its tone through breathing deeply and relaxing.

5. Feel the love

Feelings of love and connection melt away stress. One study has shown that the release of oxytocin (which happens when we feel love) reduces the stress hormones flooding the system of couples that are in conflict. Another study has shown that when feeling romantic love, people think more expansively and less analytically, have a much longer-term outlook, and are more creative. When people are horny and turned on but notactually in love, they think in a more short-term and less creative way!

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