We all experience stress, whether it's because of the demands of our children, a never-ending to-do list, a house move, an important or life-changing event, or financial pressure.
Some stress is normal - healthy even, it's when stress becomes chronic that it has negative effects.
Stress is our body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When we sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined—the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction or the “stress response.” This initiates a chain reaction of activity in the body, starting with the central nervous system. Various parts of the brain, adrenal glands, peripheral nervous system, and other body systems work together to secrete hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, into the bloodstream. These hormones send messages instructing immediate suspension of uncritical activities, such as those of the digestive, reproductive and immune systems. all bodily energy and resources are directed to supporting heart and brain function.
The stress response is the body’s way of protecting us. When working properly, it helps us stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save our life—giving us extra strength to defend ourselves, or spurring us to slam on the brakes to avoid a car accident.
Stress can also help us rise to meet challenges. It’s what keeps us on our toes during a presentation at work, sharpens our concentration when we're attempting the game-winning free throw, or drives us to study for an exam when we’d rather be watching TV.
But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to our health, immune system, mood, productivity, relationships, and our quality of life. When the stress response does not turn off, and it becomes chronic its negative effects can impact our overall health.
EMOTIONAL SYMPTOMS OF STRESS:
Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, and moody.
Feeling overwhelmed, lonely, worthless, and depressed.
Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS OF STRESS:
Upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea
Aches, pains, and tense muscles
Chest pain and rapid heartbeat Insomnia
Frequent colds and infections
COGNITIVE SYMPTOMS OF STRESS:
Forgetfulness and disorganization
Inability to focus
Being pessimistic or seeing only the negative side
BEHAVIORAL SYMPTOMS OF STRESS:
Changes in appetite -- either not eating or eating too much Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes
Exhibiting more nervous behaviors, such as nail biting, fidgeting, and pacing
Do any of these sounds familiar?
Prolonged stress can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems.
Common issues include:
-Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders
-Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke
-Obesity and other eating disorders
-Sexual dysfunction, such as impotence and loss of sexual desire in both men and women
-Skin and hair problems, such as acne, psoriasis, and eczema, and permanent hair loss
-Gastrointestinal problems, such as GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon.
While some stress is inevitable, the goal is to find practical ways to relieve and be less triggered by it. There are many lifestyle habits that we can incorporate into our day to feel less stress, for example starting our day with meditation, practicing yoga, exercising, spending time in nature and eating nutritionally rich foods (read more about which lifestyle habits help us to manage stress in this blog
But if you are looking for ONE SIMPLE EASY PRACTICE THAT YOU CAN EASILY INCORPORATE INTO YOUR DAY it is conscious relaxation.
I recorded this 12 minute guided relaxation for one of my clients, and wanted to share it as it has been helping him so much.
Practice this every evening before bed, or anytime when you need to find some zen in your day and I hope it helps you to manage stress more effectively.
REMEMBER, YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS. Xx