Most of us are familiar with the idiom that best describes stress — ‘fight-or-flight’ response. The blueprint has served us well for ages, albeit most forms of stress that we bump into today are starkly dissimilar to what our ancestors faced. When one confronted enemy invasion, or a deadly animal, in long gone times, one would be ready in a flash to fight, or flee. One would return to one’s normal state — a state of equilibrium — once the threat was over.
The types of stress we face, in our troubled times, are not direct or physical. Our stress spectrum is most often related to, or caused by, emotional and psychological factors. So, you may well articulate that the ‘fight-or-flight’ response of yore is not appropriate in our times. For instance, you cannot “blast” your manager if you do not agree with their line of thought on a given project, or situation.
The stresses we stumble upon, at present, are no less repetitive. They are also collective. However, our body is designed to function and respond adequately to stress. It is also not uncommon for us to stay in a continual state of ‘stressful’ readiness. The reason is simple. Many of us are just not relaxed, or physiologically active, to liberate our stress levels. This is unlike what our forebears achieved. They released their physical reaction for and with a definitive outcome — the end of the battle, or flight from a prowling animal. On the contrary, stresses today cumulatively lead to digestive disorders, muscular tension, high blood pressure, diabetes, psychological problems and immune malfunction.
Relaxation is the other side of the scale. It reflects the normal state to which our forebears would return, soon after overcoming a known danger. They also achieved prompt respite because the stress of their fight, or flight, response with danger was offset by physical action. The situation is different today. All the same, there are ways to dealing with stress effectively. Physical activity, or exercise, in any form, can help scatter your stress hormones. In so doing, it can leave your body relaxed and at ease. You may sure feel a wee bit stiff following a workout though, for instance, but the overall effect is relieving. Any activity — a game of tennis, running, or brisk walking — can reduce your stress levels.
Relaxation is a state of the mind. It is also a state of the body. When the mind is calm, the body is relaxed and vice versa. A tense mind activates a tense body and vice versa. When our mind and body are relaxed, the mind-body connect is able to maintain optimal health and well-being. This, in turn, powers the immune system and helps us to repair tissue damage, which is inevitable in the body in the wake of stress.
Relaxation is a ‘must-do’ to dealing with psychological stress, just as much as physical stresses of everyday life. When our mind is calm, our heart and respiratory rates are slow and steady. Our blood pressure is healthy. The muscles are relaxed. The internal organs are flush with adequate supply of nutrients and blood. Our feel-good chemicals, or endorphins, are in adequate, tranquil, appropriate supply too. Endorphins affect our moods. They also give us a sense of well-being, besides acting as our natural pain-killers. It is imperative, therefore, for us to use relaxation techniques, such as yoga and meditation — because, they help us to disperse our stress levels and maintain good health and energy, for gratis. As the long-established axiom goes, you can do your best only when you are relaxed. Not when you are stressed out.