Stress is an undeniable part of life. From work deadlines to managing finances or sometimes even just choosing what to wear in the morning, most of us experience some form of stress on an almost daily basis.
But now a groundbreaking new study from the University of California has shed light on a coping mechanism that could help us to deal better to stress: we need to learn to listen to our own bodies.
The study, which tested resilience to stress, found that those who had learnt to listen to brain signals from their own bodies were able to cope better in stressful situations than those who hadn't.
Participants had their brains scanned while facing a stressful task - in this case, wearing a face mask that limited their ability to breathe. Participants who closely monitored the changes to their body under this stress, such as increased heart rate or breathing, were better able to dampen the stress response and remain calm than those who didn't. In other words, they were more resilient to stress.
This resilience is important in encouraging us not to overreact to stress. Dr Martin Paulus, the senior author of the study, said, "This study says that resilience is largely about body awareness and not rational thinking." He added, “Even smart people, if they don’t listen to their body, might not bounce back."
So how can we increase our own awareness of our bodies and boost our resilience to stress?
Dr Lori Haase, lead author of the study and a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, recommends spending a couple of minutes every day focussing on our breathing. She says that paying close attention to inhaling and exhaling should, "teach you to have a change in breathing when anxious but be less attached to that reaction".
Then, over time, she says this "may help to improve your reaction in a stressful situation". Sold.