How stress happens and what you can do about it

In this article, we‘re taking a brief look at the body’s autonomous nervous system. This will give you a basic understanding of what’s happening in your body when you feel stress or anxiety.

The autonomous nervous system adjusts our body to changes in the environment. It’s constantly working in the background, and we have only limited, indirect control over it.

There are two components in the autonomous nervous system that control mainly opposite functions of our body. These are called the sympathetic- and the parasympathetic nervous systems.

The sympathetic nervous system

  • Has an activating effect. It prepares the body for an intensive physical response and is often referred to as fight-or-flight.
  • Tends to take over immediately in case of a real or perceived danger.
  • When active, the heart rate is increased, blood pressure is raised, pupils are dilated and digestions is inhibited. In other words: It puts us in a heightened sense of awareness to be prepared for potential threats.
  • Is dormant most of the time.

The parasympathetic nervous system

  • Has a calming effect. It prepares the body to recover and is often referred to as rest-and-digest.
  • Takes over after the danger has passed and gradually returns the body systems to normal.
  • When active, heart rate is reduced, blood pressure is lowered, pupils are narrowed, and digestion is increased. In other words, your body relaxes.
  • Is active most of the time.

Stress vs Anxiety

Let’s quickly distinguish between stress and anxiety:

Stress is often caused by external events. The sudden loss of a loved one, a car recklessly cutting in, an unexpected bill or the boss yelling at you, are just a few examples. Stress can manifest in a variety of ways: It can make you sad, angry, worried, or anxious.

Anxiety, this sense of fear that puts us on alert, is one of the internal responses that can arise as a result of stress. It is a part of your body’s stress response, but can also manifest on its own, without any external trigger or cause.

Stress and anxiety have one thing in common: Both are caused by our sympathetic nervous system being active.

How to stop stress responses

The sympathetic nervous system shuts down when the threat passes, causing you to relax again. This process can be speeded up by stimulating the calming parasympathetic nervous system through proper breathing. And this is exactly what Breath Balls Cardiac Coherence Exercise is used for.
 

Cardiac coherence breathing exercise

When done right, the cardiac coherence breathing exercise gets your heart rate in sync to your respiration. Your calming parasympathetic nervous system blossoms up for a few seconds and your stressing sympathetic nervous system subsides a little bit. Practice the cardiac coherence breathing exercise for five minutes and you will feel how stress and anxiety disappear while a state of calm relaxation manifests.
 
Properly doing the breathing exercise, however, can be challenging. This article presents you some models – stories and analogies – that will aid you to quickly master the breathing technique.

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