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Understanding the Fight-or-Flight Response

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

Stress is a normal part of life. However, it should be temporary and, hopefully, we have practices in place to manage the stress in our lives. When we become stressed, our body has a physiological response and cortisol, a stress hormone, is released. If cortisol spikes and does not return to the baseline, the effects can result in health problems, over time.

Extended periods of high levels of cortisol are associated with:

  • anxiety

  • depression

  • heart problems

  • high blood pressure

  • sleep issues

  • weight gain

  • muscle tension

  • pain

  • gastrointestinal problems

How to Rest-and-Digest

There are things we can do to manage our stress and bring our cortisol levels back to baseline. Some things to calm the nervous system and promote relaxation include:

1. Acupuncture

During an acupuncture treatment, the body releases endorphins. These are feel- good chemicals that reduce stress in the body and relieve pain. Acupuncture can calm the nervous system and bring our cortisol levels back down, creating a overall sense of well-being.

2. Cranialsacral therapy

Cranialsacral therapy often involves the practitioner connecting with the body's natural rhythm by holding the base of the skull while patients lie face up. This allows the nervous system to relax and settle. It can help reset patterns and support the body to function optimally. Patients often settles in a place between sleep and awake, feeling rejuvenated and grounded afterwards.

3. Diaphragmatic breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing can be practiced lying down and sitting up comfortably. Place one hand on your belly and the other hand on your chest. As you inhale, allow your belly to expand, your lower back softens as your breath inflates your body. Your chest does not rise, but stays still. As you breathe deeply, the diaphragm expands down toward the abdominal cavity, gently massaging the internal organs and promoting lymphatic drainage as you breathe.

4. Go for a walk, exercise, engage in movement

Be sure to get some movement in everyday, whether that's a walk around the block, yoga, a bike ride, or something else that brings you joy. It doesn't need to be rigorous or painful. Choose something that makes you feel good. Exercise can release endorphins to alleviate pain, help manage depression and anxiety, promote lymphatic drainage, improve circulation and supports a healthy cardiovascular system, improve energy level, and improve immunity.

5. Spend time outdoors, get some sunshine

Spending time outdoors can be extremely therapeutic. There is a peaceful and grounding quality to being in nature. Stepping away from our computers and desks to soak up some sunshine for just 15 minutes a day can have a positive effect on our health. Sunshine can boost the immune system, increase energy level, improve sleep, and help manage depression. Remember not stay out in the sun too long without sunscreen.

6. Meditation

Meditation can sometimes seem like an unattainable practice. It does not have to be for a specific length of time or practiced in a particular way. Consistency is more important that perfection. Start out meditating for a shorter time and become consistent at that. It does not matter whether you prefer to sit in a chair or on the ground. Just make sure you are comfortable. Close your eyes. Imagine your shoulders are hanging on your body like a coat hanging on a hanger. Exhale out of the mouth, emptying all of the air from your lungs. Inhale through the nose, practicing diaphragmatic breathing. Do this for 2 or 3 rounds to clear out old, stagnant air from your lungs. Now your lungs are better able to receive fresh oxygen. Continue with gently diaphragmatic breathing in and out of the nose and allow yourself to be still.

Within each of us, we hold innate wisdom. Sometimes our channel or connection to that wisdom can become clouded. Taking time to be still can bring clarity and perspective to a challenging situation. Meditating can calm the nervous system and cultivate peace and a sense of well-being.

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