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Is stress making life feel like an extreme sport?

The tiny habit that can help you destress in the moment

Does life sometimes feel like an extreme sport?  

The thought makes me want to both laugh and cry.

For many of us, life has become an extreme sport and yet we forget we can back up and say, “Hey, Parkour and Base Jumping isn’t really for me.” 

Instead we go with our old standby… “But mom, everyone is doing it.”

Extreme sports send our bodies and minds into a natural stress response commonly referred to as flight, fight or freeze.

This stress response comes with a hit of adrenaline and dopamine, which activates the reward centers in our brains. That’s why people seek out extreme sports. That hit feels good. (The reason for that feel good response? It gave our ancestors an evolutionary advantage when dealing with a stressful situation.)

And on a limited basis, it’s okay… even exhilarating. However, when stuck in the on position, the stress response moves from exhilarating to exhausting and depleting. In fact, when dealing with ongoing stress we actually become progressively more sensitive to it and less capable of coping with it.

Our bodies and minds just aren’t made to deal with a constant influx of adrenaline and dopamine. We need to rest and recover between hits.

This ongoing stress response can lead to poor sleep, high blood pressure, heartburn, lack of sexual interest, depression, headaches, upper respiratory infections, increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, strokes, acne… just to name a few of the possible outcomes.

Which means it’s imperative that we learn to interrupt the stress cycle caused by our busy schedules, beeping devices and constant connectivity.

The good news; breaking the cycle is easier than you might think.

When you first notice that you are feeling stressed out or overwhelmed, sigh and look up. Sighing helps reboot your breathing while looking up helps you disengage for just a moment.

Then follow up with one of the following habits. They each take less than a minute but can help interrupt and decelerate the stress you’re experiencing.

  • Consciously get control of your breathing for 60 seconds. This is as simple as breathing in for a count of 6, holding for a count of 6 and exhaling for a count of 6.
  • Close your eyes and focus on your heart beat or pulse for 60 seconds.
  • Pay attention to how the air feels on your skin for an entire minute.
  • Spend 60 seconds listening to all the different sounds in your environment. See if you notice noise that usually goes undetected.

60 seconds to a calmer, more gentler you and no justification to your mom is necessary!  

Originally published at lisaculhane.com

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