Yesterday I learned of the loss of a dear friend to cancer. My husband works long hours and travels 15 days of the month. I have kids that always need help or a ride. I am rehabbing a shoulder injury that has left me unable to work as much as I’d like. My family adopted a new dog that our older dog is having a hard time accepting. Planning a trip, working, trying to find time to cook and clean, the list can go on and on. Why am I telling you this? Because all of these things are stressors; and all of these things are common events or issues that EVERYONE will deal with. So, how does stress affect us, and what can we do to ensure our bodies are in optimal condition to deal with and process stress?
Stress is any positive or negative stimulus that triggers the stress reaction and can be physical or emotional. A happy event can feel stressful because it is a change from the usual. When you are experiencing something stressful your autonomic nervous system kicks in. Your heart rate increases, blood pressure and blood sugar levels rise, and the digestive, reproductive and immune systems are suppressed. Your body is ready to pour all its resources into a reaction to the stress, while all of your other bodily functions are compromised. The body should return to normal after the initial stressor has been dealt with, however, it’s when the stress response does not subside that trouble with our health ensues. Consider the following list of the negative effects of continual stress on the body:
- Weight Gain
- Memory Loss
- Sleep Disturbances
- Constant Muscle Tension
- Panic or Asthma Attacks
- Heartburn, Nausea, Ulcers
- Decrease in Sex Drive
- Immune System Dysfunction
- Inability to Think Clearly
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure leads to high risk of Heart Attack or Stroke
- Increase in Stress Hormones = more glucose production and high risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes
Stress also becomes harmful when people use alcohol, tobacco or drugs to try to relieve their stress. Unfortunately, instead of the body relaxing, these substances tend to keep the body in a stressed state and create more problems.
The good news is that we can control how we respond to stress, and we can become more sensitive to stressful situations and deal with them before they manifest as physical or emotional complaints. Here are some good and effective ways to deal with stressors in our life:
- Keep things in perspective! Review your life and realize that in the big scheme of things…life is pretty good. If you can’t change the circumstances, then change the way you react to them. Accept what you cannot change and laugh when you can. Take time enjoy life!
- Brush up on time management and organizational skills
- Review your relationships in your life– ongoing conflicts are not healthy
- No negative self-talk– speak kindly to yourself and give yourself a break!
- Get enough sleep– sleep helps you “go with the flow” and you’ll be less angry and mentally exhausted
- Eat Well. Healthy proteins, vegetables, beans and nuts can trigger serotonin (feel-good chemical), boost your immune system, lower blood pressure and keep hormones in check.
- Exercise Regularly
- Share your thoughts–opening up and talking about your feelings lowers stress hormones
- Take some “Me” time. Do something you enjoy; take a walk, read a book, play with your pet, go to a movie, listen to music. It’s OK to put your needs first!
- Yoga, Meditation
- Get a Massage, Chiropractic Adjustment or Acupuncture
- Use some doTerra essential oils– Lavender, Balance, Serenity, etc.
- Boost up your Vitamin D and C intake– these support your immune system
Stress is a normal part of life, many events that happen to you and around you can put stress on your body. How we react to stress is up to us. Recognize the stressors and adjust your response appropriately. Keep your body healthy and ready to deal with stress in the best possible way.