When we experience stress, our bodies enter “flight or fight” survival mode. While this response is helpful during extreme situations, it typically is detrimental during more minor daily stressors. Survival mode makes it difficult to focus, think logically, act calmly, learn, or retrieve/retain memories. This week on Fox 17, Dr. Bitner discusses practicing gratitude to manage your body’s stress response and improve your overall health.
Living in a “flight or fight” is bad for our health. High-stress hormones, including cortisol, make us store calories in fat, keep our blood sugar high, and raise our blood pressure. People stuck in “flight or fight” mode have an increased likelihood of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Getting the body out of “flight or fight” mode takes practice. Gratitude is one of the quickest tools to calm the mind and stop your body from thinking, “danger, danger!” An excellent way to set the tone of your day is to start with gratitude. Sit up, picture an image or word of what you are grateful for, and breathe slowly for a few moments. Then, as you experience stress throughout the day, tell yourself to “stop,” look away, and repeat your gratitude exercise. Your mind will feel calm and turn off the stress response.
As a mom with three kids attending three different schools, a full-time job, and health issues, Jane was experiencing stress daily. Her husband also traveled a lot for work, leaving Jane feeling like she cared for most family issues. She loved her life and her family and wanted to enjoy her kids instead of being stressed all the time. Since nothing in the short term could immediately change, we practiced gratitude at the office. Jane practiced saying “stop,” imagining her favorite image (her kids safe asleep in bed), and taking a few moments to breathe. She could feel her heart rate slow and her mind stop racing.
Health Tip of the Week:
Your body’s response to stress can be life-saving in extreme situations, but for day-to-day events, stress can shorten our lives and cause disease. You can teach your body to respond differently to stress by practicing a quick gratitude daily. For some extra help, give our Step-by-Step Guide to Metered Breathing a try.
Watch the full segment.