Most people know that wartime saying ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ and some people I know (I’m thinking of you Ruth!) even have it up on their wall at home as a constant reminder to keep calm in the chaos of modern life. We no longer have the threat of invasion by warring factions to worry us but that doesn’t mean we’re not still stressed. In fact, our cortisol levels (hormone produced by our adrenal glands in response to stress) are higher than ever! Now, small increases of cortisol have some positive effects:
- A quick burst of energy for survival reasons
- Heightened memory functions
- A burst of increased immunity
- Lower sensitivity to pain
- Helps maintain homeostasis in the body
While cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it’s important that the body’s relaxation response becomes activated so the body’s functions can return to normal following a stressful event. Unfortunately, in our current high-stress culture, the body’s stress response is activated so often that the body doesn’t always have a chance to return to normal, resulting in a state of chronic stress.
To keep cortisol levels healthy and under control, the body’s relaxation response should be activated after the fight or flight response occurs. You can learn to relax your body with various stress management techniques, and you can make lifestyle changes in order to keep your body from reacting to stress in the first place. The following have been found by many to be very helpful in relaxing the body and mind, aiding the body in maintaining healthy cortisol levels:
- Guided Imagery
- Breathing Exercises
I intend to discuss these 7 techniques in more detail during the following week, because I have used them ALL at some time, and want to share what I found. In the meantime I will leave you with the reason why I am doing this series of relaxation techniques:
After another late night working on my new Pilates Instructor Training manual I put my laptop down after 1am and turned my bedroom light off at 2.05am only to wake up, in a complete cold-sweat panic, at 6.15am! I just had so much cortisol running through my system that I couldn’t settle back down to sleep and instead I lay there churning over old conversations and thinking “I should’ve said this” or “I should’ve done that” and getting myself into a right old pickle! So, still feeling very physically tired, I read a couple of chapters of an inane romantic novel to try and lull me back to sleep. But, to no avail. I got up at 9am and have spent the whole day wondering around like a zombie and knowing that I have to be on ‘top-form’ tonight for my Pilates and yoga classes in Edenmore which is causing the stress levels to rise again and the whole pattern to repeat itself…
So, I’m signing off to do a quick restorative yoga practice just for me which will hopefully get the hormones back under control! Either that or I’ll start crying. And I can’t do that to my wonderful students. So, I’ll just ‘Keep Calm and Carry OM’ instead.