You can have the perfect diet and exercise program but if you’re not managing your stress well… you’re in big trouble. But by the end of this article you’re going to have some super effective and simple tools to find peace and smash your stress to pieces…for good.
So what is stress?
Stress is an inescapable part of the human condition, and we all experience stress on different levels and in different ways.
What we call “stress” is simply our body’s way of responding to a demand, perceived demand, challenge or a threat.
Stress is the root cause of the top three killers in the United States and can be linked to almost every disease. It has been called the #1 killer; linked to heart disease, cancer, strokes, and obesity. Stress keeps us up at night, lowers our immune systems (making us susceptible to getting sick) and causes weight gain. But not all stress is bad. Acute stress also called complementary stress is necessary for survival and can even enhance our problem solving abilities and athletic performance. It also helps us make decisions and respond quickly in life threatening situations.
The kind of stress that kills …is chronic stress, this is the kind that doesn’t go away and is extremely corrosive to our health. It seems this kind of stress is a part of our culture and, strangely, people are actually praised for having higher tolerances to chronic stress.
Specially what happens when we feel stress is our bodies fight-or-flight (sympathetic nervous system) is activated reacting to a stressful or perceived stressful event. Notice how I said perceived stressful event.. Because nothing even has to happen for us to activate the stress response… worrying is a perfect example of this type of stress.
So what happens is our bodies produces larger quantities of the chemicals cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline, which trigger a series of physical events from higher heart rate, heightened muscle preparedness, sweating, and alertness – all these factors help us protect ourselves in a dangerous or challenging situation. But we don’t want to be walking around in a state of this type of stress on a consistent daily basis . When we feel stressed many non-essential body functions are also affected and slowed down, such as our digestive and immune systems . This is another reason chronic unmanaged mental/emotional stress causes illness and disease.
When we are stressed the following physical responses happens
- Blood pressure rises
- Breathing becomes more shallow and rapid
- Our digestive system slows down
- Heart rate (pulse) rises
- Immune system goes down
- Muscles become tense
- We do not sleep
The effects of Stress on the mind include feelings of anxiety, depression, forgetfulness, mental fog, irritability, restlessness, sadness, fatigue, burnout, and anger. Which can cause…
- Eating too much or too little
- Food cravings
- Sudden angry outbursts
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Social withdrawal
- Frequent crying
- Relationship problems
- Rash poor decisions
We also tend to store Stress in our Bodies Especially in 3 areas
1.Upper back and neck- which leads to neck and headaches
2.Lower back- which leads to lower back pain and stiffness
3.Stomach- which leads to IBS, indigestion, gas, bloating and other stomach issues
We all store stress in our bodies, many people just haven’t connected with where they “store it”. So where do you store stress?
As I mentioned not all stress is harmful.
Complementary stress is the kind of stress that can have positive outcomes, examples of complemenary stress are exercising or studying for a test. From undergoing this type of stress one acquires greater strength and endurance from the exercise, and increased knowledge from the studying, so there are some benefits in sacrificing short-term discomfort for long-term gain.
Uncomplimentary Stress on the other hand makes up about 60% of our stress, and has very little benefit making it predominantly detrimental. Excess unmanaged uncomplimentary stress can lead to long-term health challenges, which is exactly why stress management is such an important aspect of wellness.
Top Stress Management Techniques
1. Meditation- studies show that having a daily practice greatly reduces chronic uncomplimentary stress by normalizing blood pressure, reducing tension and perception of stress, helping cope with pain and loss, improving the immune system and greatly increasing concentration and mental focus.
2. Breathe Exercises- Which can be as simple as taking ten deep breaths in and out through your nose, can help your body to slow down and greatly reduces stress.
3. Being in Nature- A recent study done in Japan showed that even looking at a picture of nature can greatly reduce chronic stress. Simply placing pictures of beautiful nature scenes at your desk or in your home is a great strategy but even better is getting outside as much as possible to a park, beach, lake or mountain area to decompress.
4. Physical Exercise– Science has now proven that exercise can help you become more resilient to stress. A recent research study conducted by Princeton University has found evidence that exercise actually reorganizes the brain to be more resilient to stress. This study, published May 1 in the Journal of Neuroscience, concluded that when mice were allowed to exercise regularly and were then exposed to a stressor (in this case, exposure to cold water) their brains exhibited a spike in the activity of neurons that shut off excitement in a brain region shown to regulate anxiety. They also found that physical activity reorganizes the brain so that its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function (Princeton 1). This new evidence has provided yet another great reason to incorporate exercise into your daily lifestyle. Not only does exercise induce an immediate reduction in stress levels, it is now proven to help recondition our brains to respond better to stressful situations in everyday life and reduce anxiety.
I found that after just 20 minutes into exercise, a positive change takes place in my energy levels and mood. My energy is increased and my spirits are lifted.
“There is no stress in life, only a stressful response. How we respond to stress determines its effects upon us.”
This week’s healthy in 21 challenge is to lower your tolerance to chronic stress by starting an exercise program or trying one of the other stress busting techniques I spoke about in this episode. Don’t let another day, week or month go by without reaping the benefits of a reorganized brain to be more resilient to stress. You either can make excuses or make it happen!
Peace be with you and until next week live passionately on purpose
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