We live in a stressed-out society. A little bit of stress can be challenging and motivating but too much leaves us feeling tense and exhausted. More importantly, high levels of chronic stress can have very serious impacts on health.
The Physical Effects of Stress
Stress makes us vulnerable to other illnesses. One thing stress does is depress the immune system which is involved in allergic response, response to infection and scavenging mutated cells. This means we become more susceptible to environmental/food sensitivities, infection and cancer.
Stress also causes an increase in a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol’s actions have long-term implications for health – it raises blood sugar and increases the storage of fat, especially on the abdomen, and these are risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.
To Go From Surviving To Thriving, Strive To Manage Your Stress Effectively
Clearly, we have to live with stress. But if we want to be healthy as well, we need to be proactive about bringing the stress in our lives into balance. We can do this by making conscious stress management part of our everyday lifestyles.
What is “stress management”? Stress management is the use of specific skills that help reduce the health impacts of negative stress by invoking the “relaxation response”. Some examples of stress management techniques are deep breathing, the use of mental imagery, and progressive muscle relaxation.
In striving to balance the effects of stress in your life, there are 2 key things to focus on:
- Learn to recognize how stress effects you
- Counter these effects with “stress-busters”
How Do You Know When You’re Stressed?
Here are some common symptoms:
- Tired, can’t sleep
- Worried, anxious, depressed, irritable, “spacey”
- Aches and pains
- Digestive issues: heartburn, indigestion, change in bowel or bladder habits
- Increased use of cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, other substances
- If you’re not sure what your symptoms are, ask someone who knows you well and start to observe yourself. You can’t deal with something you don’t know about.
- Simplify your life – learn to say “No”
- “Let go, and let God…” – learn to act on the things you can control and to accept those beyond your control.
- Treat yourself – make a point of doing something enjoyable every day.
- Exercise your sense of humour – it’s good for your perspective and good for you physically. Laughter can be the best medicine.
- Exercise your body – nothing relieves the physical effects of stress as much as exercise, and a relaxing walk is a good way to start.
- Eat well, sleep well – your physical resources are rapidly depleted when you’re stressed. Make sure you recharge.
- Share your concerns and seek professional help when overwhelmed.
- Learn to use relaxation techniques, such as mental imaging, progressive muscle relaxation and diaphragmatic breathing