We are in an over-stressed society. Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system’s fight-or-flight response — our built-in mechanism for safely escaping a life-threatening emergency. Our bodies have not quite caught up to the modern era, so our brains are unable to distinguish between the stress of a lion chasing us and the stress of a nasty argument with a loved one, a demoralizing work experience or a televised news report about violence in another city.
When we are in a state of stress, no matter what the cause, we get an adrenaline rush. Our heart rate increases, enabling our body to pump more blood to the big muscles needed to run, climb, leap and hoist our way to physical safety. In turn, our blood flow immediately diverts from our “non-essential” organs — the liver, kidney, brain and digestive tract — to our big muscle groups. Our blood also clots more easily, so that we don’t bleed to death, in case we’re injured during our “great escape.”
For short durations, this stress response not only is healthy but also potentially life saving. However, when it is locked in the “on” position, as a result of the frenzy and rush-rush-rush of modern life, we end up in a state called “sympathetic overdrive.” Constantly diverting blood flow from our intestinal tract to our major muscle groups, we improperly digest our food, thereby failing to convert it into nutrients. Meanwhile, our arteries get worn down, from the heart constantly beating harder and faster than it needs to in a normal, relaxed state.
Over time, the circulation of stress molecules and chronic bombardment of the arteries result in damage that makes the arteries more brittle. We become more prone to heart, vascular and other metabolic diseases.
So how do we deal with stress? Well, we cannot really escape from the modern society. Or, can we? It turned out that medication is a great way to reduce stress by directing the mind to be more inward focused, therefore “escaping” from a stressful environment. For me personally, yoga, a form of moving medication, works perfectly.
Thanks for reading.
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