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Hello, hello and welcome to my first blog of 2022.

Puppies & Kittens - How do you feel when you read those words? I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel all warm, fuzzy, happy and playful.

Stress ...still feeling all happy and playful?

As much as we would all like to live stress-free, we do need a little bit of stress in our lives. Dealing with stress helps us grow, adapt and become more resilient.

Without even realising it our brain is constantly scanning our surroundings to make sure that we are safe. Our brain also loves routine and if it gets even a whiff of us trying something new or that something is threatening us, it will trigger our “fight or flight” response. This is essentially our body taking over and putting us into survival mode.

I’m pretty sure you’re all familiar with what being stressed feels like. Just in case you have forgotten, or it’s been a while, this is what happens in the body:

  • Our heart rate increases.

  • Blood pressure and blood sugars rise.

  • Our breathing gets shallow.

  • Digestion slows down.

  • We get hot and bothered.

  • Our body posture becomes defensive.

  • Niceness goes out the window.

  • We get a rush of the stress hormones (adrenalin & cortisol).

  • Blood is diverted to our arms and legs in case we have to run; and

  • Any unnecessary body functions which are not required for our survival go “offline”.

The way our body responds to stress was incredibly helpful when we were cave dwellers and had to face lions, tigers and bears on a daily basis. But today our stress is more likely to be from running late for a meeting, being stuck in traffic, checking the bank balance after a holiday, a relationship break up or a death in the family. Interestingly enough, whether your stress is checking your bank balance or a relationship break-up, the body’s stress response will be the same. It cannot differentiate between the two situations.

Recently I spent the morning with breathing coach Felicity Campbell ( Felicity asked me to write my name backwards. Hmmm that’s simple enough I thought, there’s nothing terribly life-threatening about that. Without even realising it though the task had stressed me a little bit. There it was on the monitor right in front of me, evidence of my very shallow breathing.

The stress response is designed for extreme situations as it puts our whole system on high alert. The thing is, we’re not built to live on high alert for great lengths of time. We experience the stress, the threat is over, we then need to calm ourselves back down into what is called “rest and digest”. What happens if we don’t find that calm? You end up with chronic stress… and nobody wants that! Live in chronic stress for too long and your body will start pushing back. You can look forward to mental health issues, high blood pressure, digestive issues, insomnia, your immunity will the compromised and you will find it hard to find any joy in life.

So how do we find the calm in-between the stress? Any mindfulness exercise will do the trick but one of the easiest, cheapest and most effective ways to calm our system is to just breathe. One big, deep breath isn’t going to cut the mustard either - it took me about 5-8 minutes for my breathing to recover from the stress of writing my name backwards. Although breathing may sound incredibly simple, nice, even, slow breaths send a signal to the body that it’s safe, that the threat is gone and that all of our systems can return to functioning normally.

So lovely people remember the importance of calming down completely after your stress period. If you don’t “calm your farm” you will end up with chronic stress…. and remember to just breathe.

Much love

Carmen xx


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