How To Change Your Brain’s Response To Stress

To change how you experience stress you actually have to change how your brain works. In other words, your neural structure doesn’t change on its own. However, it is possible to change how your nervous system feels — which will be a far more powerful tool in stress management than anything else you could possibly use.

I have no intention of being a “fitness guru.” However, I’d like to encourage you to explore the power of using physical activity as a tool to learn more about physical health and personal fitness. When it comes to physical health, the most important thing is your body’s natural, innate response as it attempts to cope with stress and a lifetime of dieting and exercise. By using your body’s response to stress as a way to strengthen the nervous system, you will be more likely to feel better without using unnecessary pain killers and drugs.

The best “fitness tool” might be to “train your nerves” — by using some type of physical activity to practice learning to overcome anxiety or pain in your gut, muscles and nervous system.

The first step in training is using the physical activity of walking, running and yoga as a way to gain some control over your body. You do not need to be able to run the 5K in under 3 minutes. However, it helps if you can walk at a moderate pace of 5-10 mph. Even if a 5 km race will take more time than a 30 minute walk (unless you practice), the benefits are well worth the extra effort. The most important thing is to avoid going too hard and too long. You should not be able to run 10 miles with pain and exertion. However, you may go 5 miles, 3 miles, 2 miles with short bursts of pain that do not hurt or damage your muscles. The goal is to gradually increase, and if possible, eliminate, the amount of pain experienced over a longer exercise session. Do not use running or running to lose weight — the exercise itself should burn the calories. Instead, you will need to eat more healthy foods to achieve this goal.

For the goal of training your internal nervous system, you do not need to spend much money or time. But the type of exercise you choose is important. There have been many books written on this, and many of them have a very simple yet profound advice that is well worth trying. I will suggest a handful of books on my list here. 

Yoga For Stress Relief: The Benefits of a Completely Mind-Body Approach to Life. Published by the New American Library, this textbook offers a variety of activities including yoga, meditation, and the use of breathing techniques that will help your body regulate itself and manage stress. By practicing yoga, you will increase the range of your awareness, decrease the pain in your heart and mind, and be more likely to live a stress-free life. 

The Four Step Program for Getting Better Sleep. This is the most recent book to suggest techniques to get a better night’s rest. The book can be downloaded through the Library . If you can’t or don’t want to buy a book, this program can help you get the sleep you really deserve. It includes an in-depth analysis of sleep cycles to figure out why your sleep is not as good as it could be and some easy tricks to increase your natural sleep patterns.

Sleep Paralysis: How to Prevent It, Get Rid of It, and Improve Your Quality of Life. Published by the Journal of Psychophysiology , this is a review paper that has some interesting ideas on sleep and anxiety, and includes some helpful tips to help you combat sleep paralysis, which is the fear-induced state of being “paralyzed” by sleep when you’re supposed to be awake.

The best book to read here is The Art Of Stress Management , by David Burns. This book is well worth reading! However, it does not have a specific way of learning how to change your body’s response to stress.