Body Sense

SUMMER | 2016

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10 Body Sense Embodied Awareness How Paying Attention Can Reduce Stress By Amy Andrews McMaster Most Americans have a long-distance relationship with their bodies. They pay the most attention when they are in pain or when something goes awry. If we try to reduce the disconnect between our minds and our bodies, however, we can reduce the stress in our lives and increase well-being instead. The body constantly offers us valuable information in the form of sensations, feelings, and intuition. But we are so busy thinking and digesting all the stimulation outside our bodies that we habitually forget to go inward, to turn down the volume of the world around us, and to turn up the volume of the awareness within us. One of the best tools we have for managing and reducing stress is listening to our body. Let's face it, stress happens. It's part of being human. In today's PADI (Pressure, Always On, Distraction, and Information Overload) culture, it requires effort and skill to take care of ourselves in ways that minimize stress, ensure we truly enjoy our precious free time, and enable us to make and maintain meaningful relationships with friends and family. When we experience stress—including acute stress such as important work deadlines, being stuck in traffic, or suddenly slamming on the brakes to avoid an accident—our brains trigger the release of stress hormones into our bloodstream. After a stressful situation, it can take anywhere from half an hour to a couple of days to return to a normal resting state. Chronic, elevated levels of stress hormones can lead to serious issues. For example, too much cortisol can suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure, decrease libido, produce acne, contribute to obesity, and more. 1 LEARNING TO LISTEN How can we reset our body and return to the desired resting state, free of stress hormones? Embodied awareness is the first step. Our body can give us signs right away that our

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