Ever feel like you have to work out hard when you work out?
Maybe you skip an exercise session because you don’t have enough time to do something hard, or get sweaty, or make it to the gym?
This kind of thinking could be robbing you of lots of great opportunities to reduce negative stress responses and improve your overall health.
We have known intuitively that we feel better, have better mood when we move. But we haven’t always been able to make the connection to why.
Our hormonal stress response has been linked to our cerebrum and thoughts through the adrenal glad. This is one of the reasons psychotherapy can be helpful for people with stress management.
But did you know that our motor and sensory cortexes also influence our adrenal glands!
Just a 20 minute walk can help to burn off inflammatory stress hormones!
And the muscles attached to our spine (you know-our core muscles) have the most neural connections to this response.
So, yes moving your spine and doing even simple core movement type exercises can be a great way to stay healthy!
Here are 2 of my favorite exercises to connect your mind and spine:
Exercise doesn’t always have to be hard especially when it comes to our mental health!
Increased sympathetic drive can create stress and strain in our bodies and minds. It can be an underlying cause of increased neck and back muscle tension, increased symptoms of bowel or bladder urgency, increased heart and respiratory rates, and increased pain and inflammation including pelvic pain.
One of the quickest and easiest (and FREE) ways to dial down our sympathetic (or fight or flight) tone is to become intentional about our breathing.
Breathing techniques to calm the nervous system often get termed “diaphragmatic breathing.” But honestly, all breathing is diaphragmatic breathing.
The diaphragm is a large central skeletal muscle that is primarily under involuntary control by the phrenic nerve. The autonomic (automatic) nervous system is controlling it’s behavior most of the time. As skeletal muscle though, we are able to exert voluntary control over it.
By changing your breathing rate and depth, you can reversely affect your autonomic nervous system!
There are lots of different methods for doing this. But just simply bringing your attention to your breath can be helpful along with thinking about taking a few deeper breaths.
Try it now and see how you feel!
In honor of International Women’s Day, let’s talk about how mental and emotional stress can affect the body and also how we can use our body to affect our stress response!
One of the ways we understand how humans operate in different states in different situations is through the autonomic nervous system. This nervous system helps regulate our automatic responses like breathing, heart rate, and certain hormonal responses.
The autonomic nervous system includes the sympathetic, otherwise known as our fight/flight/freeze response and the parasympathetic nervous system know more as our rest/digest response.
We need both of these responses, but spending an excessive amount of time in one or the other, especially in the sympathetic nervous system, can be detrimental for our health. Being able to transition easily between these responses has been linked to longevity and health.
This concept has gotten a lot of press recently in the form of heart rate variability. Increased heart rate variability is thought to be an indicator of robust autonomic nervous system flexibility and overall health and longevity.
Heart rate variability refers to a phenomenon in the cardio-respiratory axis in which breathing in is associated with the sympathetic nervous system and a slight increase in the heart rate, and breathing out is associated with the parasympathetic nervous system and a slight decrease in the heart rate.
So, while your heart rate is the average number of beats per minute, the heart variability is a calculation of the amount of change within the rate per minute. You need a special device that reads your heart rate very accurately and that links to a sophisticated program to run lots of math.
Whether or not you choose to measure or track you HRV, we know that there are actions that we can take to improve our HRV, health of our nervous system and overall stress.
One of the simplest ways to tap into our autonomic nervous system is through the diaphragm and breathing. Breathing is typically moderated through the ANS and increases with increased stress be it mental or physical and decreases in relaxed states and with sleep. We also have volitional control of our breathing, and by changing the rate of breathing and can exert influence on our relative autonomic state.
Being intentional about slower, deeper breaths helps us access our parasympathetic nervous system and can reduce muscle tension, reduce our heart rate, and decrease stress hormones in the body.
This can be a powerful tool to help us both mentally and physically.
Over the next several posts, we’ll explore some more strategies to manage our bodies stress response through our bodies.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.