The following article was written by Heinen’s Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek RD, LD.
As busy human beings, we tend to spend most of our waking hours everywhere but in our own body. It’s easy to be absent for the present moment when you’re juggling family and work obligations, but over time this can become stressful and take a toll on our physical and mental health.
What actually happens in your body when it’s exposed to stress?
Imagine you’re sitting in traffic and suddenly the car in front of you stops abruptly, triggering you to slam on the breaks. This is an example of your fight-or-flight response, a natural, life-saving biological response hard-wired in your DNA. It works like this: you perceive a threat and your body releases stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, to prepare you for action.
Hitting the brakes to avoid a crash is an example of acute stress. Chronic stress, on the other hand, is what most of us experience on a daily basis. It can be caused by relationship challenges, everyday demands of your job or family and of course, the holidays.
The problem with chronic stress is that your body interprets it as “car crash” and responds with fight-or-flight. If left unchecked, this can lead to conditions such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Every day stress occurs when you fret over the past or worry about the future. If you think about it though, you can only really be here, now. And in this moment you have no worries. In fact, all of your real power rests in this very moment; in this breath. Since you can’t breathe in the past or future, when you take a moment to come back to your breath, what you are really doing is allowing yourself to step into the present moment.
This holiday season, I invite you to live your life as a series of present moments. When you begin to feel stressed, take a long, slow, deep breath in and out. Come back into your body and step into the now, where stress cannot occur. Even if you focus on just one breath per hour—five seconds in and five seconds out—that’s ten seconds of unshakeable peace.
Just think what spending a little more time in the now could do for your health.