Stress isn't always a a bad thing. It can be a signal that something isn't right. The flight or fight response can help us respond appropriately in dangerous situations. Humans are actually equipped to handle stress quite well in small doses.
However, chronic stress can be both mentally and physically harmful.
Chronic stress can cause our muscles to tense and, over time, cause tension headaches or back pain. Acute stress can induce respiratory issues like shortness of breath or rapid, shallow breathing, which can be dangerous for someone who has asthma or other respiratory conditions.
Stress can also cause cardiovascular issues. Acute stress triggers stress hormones to be released in our bodies. It also causes an increased heart rate and stronger contractions. When sustained for long periods of time, due to chronic stress, those symptoms of stress can exhaust or damage the heart.
So what can we do about it?
There is actually something simple we can do that will immediately activate our parasympathetic nervous system to slow our breathing and heart rate.
We can activate what is called our Mammalian Diving Reflex to instantly reset and regulate our emotions.
All mammals have this safety instinct called the diving reflex. When our faces, especially our eyes and nose, are submerged in cold water, even if just for a few seconds, it triggers our parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS).
Our PSNS is designed to calm us down by decreasing our heart rate and slowing our breathing. It exists to calm us so that we can relax.
When we feel overwhelmed we can trigger this calming response to basically hit the reset button on our emotions.
Fill a large bowl with water at a temperature of about 55 degrees. It may need to be ice water but don't let the temperature drop below 50 degrees. Take a deep breath and submerge your face in the cold water for about 10 seconds.
Come up for air and repeat if necessary.
By activating the PSNS you will calm your body down immediately and be more capable of thinking clearly and processing information in a more rational way.
WARNINGS: Consult your physician before trying this exercise, especially if you have any allergies or a pre-existing heart or blood pressure condition. If you have an eating disorder, like anorexia nervosa, avoid activating the dive reflex as it can be dangerous for the heart.