According to a 2014 study by the American Psychological Association, 77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms of stress. 73% experience psychological symptoms and 48% are lying awake at night because of stress.
Given we are living through a Pandemic with great loss of life and economic stability, one can only assume stress today exceeds the numbers in the 2014 APA study. Bottom line…we face a lot of stress so knowing how to deal with it is critical to our health and performance.
The good news is you can. First, some basics to understand.
When we feel stressed, we have an imbalance in the Autonomic Nervous System. What is the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)? The ANS is a branch of your Central Nervous System that regulates involuntary functions and is constantly assessing the environment around you and sending information to the brain. This ongoing process keeps you healthy and safe and goes unnoticed as you go about your day.
Your ANS has two primary branches, each at one extreme of functioning. These branches are called parasympathetic and sympathetic. The goal is to keep you in balance with your environment.
When an animal is being chased by a predator, adrenaline and cortisol flow, its blood flow concentrates to core life-sustaining organs, digestion slows, and heart rate increases. When you face a stressful situation, your body will do the same thing.
What makes humans unique is our ability to create stress in our minds, without it actually happening to us in the moment. Animals are instinctual, they are one to one with whatever their environment throws at them. Humans have the ability to worry about something in the future or ruminate about the past and create stress.
When you experience stress, the sympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system is activated. It senses a threat and goes into “flight”, “flight” or “fright” response. It’s ok when a mortal or significant danger presents itself. It’s not ok when this is how you respond to everyday life. Chronic stress leads to disease.
Once an animal has eluded its predator, it returns to a “rest” and “digest” state or parasympathetic response. This is when the body returns to balance with its environment.
When you feel stressed, learning how to activate your “rest and digest” response, or the parasympathetic branch of your ANS, can transform your life. Learning to self-regulate your response to stress is a game changer.
So, animals may not get ulcers, but people do! This is why. Our habit of unwittingly placing ourselves in a state where our bodies think a predator is chasing us, drives a cascade of reactions in our brain and bodies that make us sick physically and mentally.
When we fail to self-regulate properly in the face of stress, our ability to perform at a high level is compromised.
Learning to self-regulate can be improved through breathing techniques, meditation, neurofeedback and more. Tiger Neuroscience has a system of assessment and training that will balance your Autonomic Nervous System and equip you to self-regulate powerfully through whatever the world presents you.