Stress - good or bad?
Welcome to this edition of "Body Brain Bite" - a short newsletter with some interesting articles, research and information to help you feel and function at your best. This edition is focused on stress, is it good for us or bad for us, and how can we master our stress response?
Stress can be defined as a state of mental, emotional or physical tension experienced as a result of difficult or challenging circumstances. Stress is not inherently good or bad. The way in which our body and brain responds to stress is healthy and adaptive.
There are two types of stress - Eustress which is beneficial to us because it motivates us, moves us forward and we grow from it. And distress, which is negative stress, decreases our performance and causes harm. And here's the key - an individual's perception and reaction to stress is what determines if the physiological interpretation is eustress or distress. We cannot change the experience, but we can change the interpretation.
Change the way you interpret signs of stress
Even the way we think about aging can change our real experience of aging. If we think of aging in a positive way - we gain wisdom, freedom, and other positive outcomes - then we are more likely to have a positive experience of aging. And vice versa. Read more.
So, by adopting a mindset of stress being helpful and adaptive can lead to greater competence, better performance and even a more adaptive cardiovascular response to stress.
Leadership and stress
Stress plays an even more significant role in our lives if we are in a position in which we lead others, in several ways:
Leaders are inherently exposed to more stress in their roles
A leader's ability to effectively manage the stress in their lives will impact their ability to be effective in the requirements of their job - making decisions, dealing with problems, communicating effectively and staying calm under pressure
Leader's have an exponential impact on the lives of many. A leader's ability to handle stress will have a direct effect on the stress experienced by their followers
Practical ways to master your stress response
So, all this begs the question: How can I change the way I think about and interpret stress to become more effective at managing the stress in my life. Here are three easy and practical things for you to try:
1. Just breathe
Just 5 mins a day of guided breathwork has been found to be more effective at improving wellbeing than mindfulness. There are extensive studies that show significant positive outcomes of resonance frequency breathing on physical and mental health. You can read more in this previous Body Brain Bite dedicated to breathing.
Give it a go
Click the image on the right to experience a 10 min guided resonance frequency breathwork session
2. Get outside
It seems like almost every week there's another study published on the incredible mind and body benefits of getting outside in nature. You can amp up the benefits by taking an 'awe walk' - while you're outside, deliberately pay attention and notice things that fill you with a sense of awe and wonder. Research has found cultivating a sense of awe increases wellbeing and life satisfaction, and reduces anxiety and depression. The Awe Collective
The University of Arizona has created this fabulous website "The Awe Collective" for gathering, connecting, and mapping moments of awe. You can be inspired by the pictures of others and add your own photos, to build wellbeing across the world.
3. Feel the cold
Wim Hof has made the pleasurable pain of ice baths a global hit! And science is increasingly showing evidence for the benefits that proponents of the practice say they experience - it makes you feel amazing. Cold water is a way of deliberately exposing yourself to controlled stress, overcoming the challenge and building strength and resilience in the process. And it activates brown fat which increases metabolism and may lead to weight loss!
Exposure to cold releases a cocktail of positive brain chemicals
Body Brain Reset 2024
5 February - 28 March, 2024 Stress mastery is a key focus of the Body Brain Reset program. The program is built around experimenting with intentional practices shown to improve your ability to handle stress, and being accountable to me to do the work! Participants signficantly improve in their abillity to manage stress, both in self-reported subjective outcomes and in their objective measure of Heart Rate Variability. The next intake of the Body Brain Reset Program runs from 5 February to 28 March, 2024. This round of the program specifically supports participants to reset after the holidays, and start the year with establishing a set of great habits. Please get in touch with me if you think you need a reset to start 2024.
"There is an intelligence that operates within our bodies, far greater than that within the mind. The natural intelligence that resides in the human body is incredible and we all have access to its capabilities so long as we do not allow the mind to overshadow it. Simply by taking your attention from incessant thinking and directing your senses to the inner body, you will be able to draw from the stillness and intelligence residing there.”
Patrick McKeown, The Oxygen Advantage
Let me know what helps you to manage your stress
I love to hear about your experiences with different practices to manage your stress, and how it impacts your life, performance and wellbeing. Please drop me a note at email@example.com to share your stories.