Stress is no fun
Everyone has their ‘favorite’ version of stress. It can be pressure on the job, unexpected expenses, or needing to confront someone regarding a serious issue. Regardless of the cause, stress is always uncomfortable.
But let’s look at it from a different (and more positive) perspective for a moment — through physiology.
Every one of us experiences stress. You know that guy or girl who always seems to have everything together — even he or she stresses on a daily basis!
Our bodies are constantly maintaining homeostasis. That is, we keep an internal environment that is optimal for biological processes. This is accomplished by reading stress levels. As soon as our body senses that something isn’t right, we react, immediately going about correcting it. For example, when we’re too hot, we sweat. The evaporating water takes heat with it and we begin to cool down. Nearly everything we do, biologically, is in response to stress.
It’d be nice if we could’ve figured out how to bleed money whenever we came into a financial bind, but unfortunately, life doesn’t quite work that way.
The catch-all response
Just like all other living organisms, we have evolved systems (e.g. the sweat response) to deal with challenges from the environment. However, instead of creating individual responses for each and every specific challenge, we settled on a small set of generic “tools.” I’m referring, of course, to the “fight or flight” system, which is our physical response to nearly any form of stress.
When faced with a difficult situation, our bodies undergo physiological changes that are immediately detectable. Blood pressure and blood sugar spike, resulting in a boost of energy. Muscle tension increases. Our heartbeat and breathing patterns accelerate. Pupils dilate and we begin to perspire.
These changes can be appropriate for overcoming many challenges, such as when running from an angry bear, or trying to get that TPS report done on time, but long-term exposure to these effects can damage the body. It can’t continue to run on overdrive for long. It needs to rest from time to time.
This is where Qigong comes in.
I hope I’ve illustrated that stress is natural and unavoidable. Accepting this as truth, we now have the choice to manage our stress with wisdom and efficiency. So, where do we begin?
Let’s look at the specific stress responses again. Since we have very little direct control over our heart rate, perspiration, blood sugar level, and pupil dilation, we’ll use our breath and muscle tension to induce a more relaxed state. And that’s exactly how it works: something like reverse engineering.
Your mind is the ultimate decider. It is the reason the stress response was initiated in the first place — it can decide to end it and resume being comfortable. Consciously taking just a few slow, deep, and relaxed breaths will convince your heart to begin beating slower, lowering your blood pressure. Likewise, choosing to move the muscles in a soft and unhurried manner will induce further relaxation throughout the entire body.
It doesn’t even take very long to experience results. However, with regular Qigong practice, the effects are quicker, much deeper, and longer lasting.
Some final thoughts
We all feel stress. It’s the body’s natural response to change and challenge. Without challenge, we don’t grow and improve. So, in this way, stress can be seen as a positive thing. It’s an indicator — it heralds a challenge, an opportunity for growth and learning. Knowing this, we can take a few deep breaths and accept the challenge calmly and confidently.