Stress: A strain, pressure, (nervous) tension, worry, anxiety, trouble, difficulty; informal hassle.
We all feel it but yet not quite sure how to handle it and its affects. I hope this months newsletter can help guide you to a more relax state of mind and body. Enjoy.
For many, modern life is full of deadlines, work pressures, family, money challenges, time constraints and daily stresses that our everyday existence brings on. Some stress, in small doses, is actually beneficial. It can motivate you, helps you perform, and get the body moving at times when it is really needed. But when our bodies are constantly running on emergency mode, it triggers what is called a "flight or fight" response and when this is on more often than not, it starts to do more harm than good.
Stress is a normal physical response and our bodies are amazing in the fact that we are wired to protect ourselves against threats from predators, assailants and life threatening situations. When we start to sense danger, an imbalance, or a threat (real or imagined) our bodies kick into a stress response mode. When this response is triggered it sets off an alarm to increase heart rate, boost blood pressure, and flood our body with stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol (a steroid hormone released by your adrenals). This alters our immune system, suppresses our digestive system, reproductive system and growth process. This built in alarm system also communicates with our brain that controls our mood, motivation, and our fear. These hormones set up the body for action because in a real fight or flight situation, all this would be needed in order to help us survive. These physical changes increase speed, strength, focus, and reaction time, all in preparation for any upcoming danger ahead.
For most of us, we do not need to respond to such danger. There isn’t that Wooly Mammoth or tiger about to pounce on you but maybe a car coming too close as you cross the street, a work deadline, a 10k race, or even lack of sleep. All of these keep our stress response system at a high level and when overexposed, these stress hormones start doing damage to your body.
Wondering if your stress response levels have been too high?
Here are some warning signs to take into consideration while accessing your stress level….
Irritability or short temper
Agitation, inability to relax
Sense of loneliness and isolation
Depression or general unhappiness
- Eating more or less
Sleeping too much or too little
Isolating yourself from others
Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)
- Memory problems
Inability to concentrate
Seeing only the negative
Anxious or racing thoughts
- Aches and pains
Diarrhea or constipation
Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
Loss of sex drive
You can start to learn how to identify stress and what triggers your response in stressful situations. Awareness is key and now that you know a few of the signs here are some techniques to help you deal with your stress and its affects.
A few techniques to help you to de-stress:
Eat a healthy diet.
Excess sugar, caffeine and alcohol can affect the stress that is put on the body. Lots of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, fluids, and a well balanced diet can help.
This will reduce your amount of stress as well as help prevent it . It will also keep those good hormones flowing. These endorphins (your brains "feel good" neurotransmitters) are a powerful tool in helping reduce your stress as well as your mood. Exercise also gives you many health benefits as well like strengthen your heart, increase your energy levels, lower blood pressure and more so you will able to handle stress in a more efficient way.
Simplify your life
Cut out all the small stuff that tends to clutter your day (and your life). Simplify your routines, your commitments, and excess "to do’s". Try and edit your day to what is really important, have a few more unscheduled minutes or hours in the day, and make sure you are enjoying what you are doing.
Practice relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or visualization techniques.
Even a few minutes of visualizing a peaceful scene, listening to calm music, a few stretches, or deep breathing has proven to be a quick de-stressor.
Have a laugh
Go out and socialize and have a few laughs. Laughter is the best medicine they say, also it is proven to lower Blood pressure, increase blood flow to the brain and heart and fire some more of those happy hormones.
There are so many things we can do in the day to help us de-stress but most importantly is to recognize it before it happens. What patterns do we fall into? What people tend to set us off? What can we cut out of our day that really doesn’t need to be there? With a little awareness and some new techniques we can lessen our stress and therefore become healthier, happier and a bit more in balance.
In good health,