Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Although it’s a common ailment, you can take steps to prevent or reduce your risk. One way to do that is by eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, staying active, and managing stress.
Reducing stress is easier said than done. It’s not always as simple as eliminating stressful situations or people from our lives; however, there are small things we can do to help manage stress on a day-to-day basis.
One such strategy is called autoregulation which involves the manipulation of specific stressors (i.e., heat, humidity, cold) in order to increase or decrease their effect on the body at any given time in response to changes in its internal environment.
What is Autoregulation?
Autoregulation refers to the conscious control and modification of the effects of two primary stressors – heat and cold – on the body, and especially the heart. In other words, you can use your senses to regulate how much stress your heart and body experience depending on the weather and other external factors.
With practice, you can increase or decrease the stress created by heat and cold to create an optimal level of stress that is not too little or too much. This is important because too little stress can lead to underperformance and too much stress can lead to overactivation, which can be harmful to your body.
How Does Autoregulation Work?
By using your senses, you can adjust your heart rate, blood pressure, and circulation to create an optimal level of stress. When you experience the effects of heat or cold, the autonomic nervous system (ANS) kicks in to regulate various body systems including circulation, blood pressure, heart rate, and metabolism.
The ANS can be thought of as the body’s built-in thermostat for regulating internal body temperature. The ANS is comprised of two branches – the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS).
The SNS is responsible for the “fight or flight” response and is activated during times of high stress or challenge. The PSNS, on the other hand, is responsible for the “rest and digest” response and is activated during times of low stress or relaxation.
Benefits of Autoregulation
There are many benefits of autoregulation including reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, improved athletic performance, increased mental and emotional resilience, and improved quality of life.
Reduced Cardiovascular Disease Risk – According to research, heart rate variability is a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease risk. Thus, by improving heart rate variability, autoregulation can help to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.
Improved Athletic Performance – Athletes who engage in autoregulation can experience reduced anxiety, improved focus, and an overall sense of relaxation, which can help to improve athletic performance.
Increased Mental and Emotional Resilience – Emotions and thoughts are regulated by the nervous system.
Autoregulation can help to improve mental and emotional resilience by helping you to respond to stressful situations in a healthier way.
Improved Quality of Life – When you experience stress, your body creates and releases cortisol. Over time, this can have a negative impact on your mental and physical health, including your immune system, metabolism, and sleep patterns. Autoregulation can help to reduce the amount of cortisol you produce.
How to Practice Autoregulation
There are many ways to practice autoregulation and they can be done at any time, anywhere. When you’re experiencing the effects of heat or cold, try to focus on your breathing as well as your heart rate and circulation.
Here are some specific practices that can help you to perform autoregulation.
Heart Rate Variability Training – Heart rate variability training is a type of biofeedback that involves the use of sound or visual feedback to help you to create and maintain a relaxed state of consciousness. This method is best used with the assistance of a trained therapist.
Biofeedback – Another type of autoregulation is biofeedback, which is the conscious use of physiological feedback to regulate psychological and physiological processes. There are various types of biofeedback, including heart rate variability and electrodermal activity feedback.
Autoregulation is a way to consciously control the effects of heat and cold on your body. You can use your senses to increase or decrease the amount of stress your body experiences. This is important because too little stress can lead to underperformance and too much stress can lead to overactivation, which can be harmful to your body.
When you practice autoregulation, you can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and improve your athletic performance. It can also help you to become more mentally and emotionally resilient.