Take some time to ask people how they are doing on a daily basis and the majority of them will say, “stressed!”. We’re all dealing with stressors in some form or fashion. While some of the stressors we have control over, it’s important to understand that what separates each of us is how we (our brain and body) deal with stress. It’ll take some practice; however, I think you’ll find some tips we’ll share at the end to be helpful in minimizing the impact that chronic stress can have on your health.
Similar to death and taxes, stress is something you can’t avoid. Better to learn how to live with it than try to hide from it. It’s going to find you.
Not all stress is created equal. Acute stress (short-term periods of stress, like work/school deadlines, sport or difficult conversations) cause an increase in stress hormones, known as adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. Some studies will show that acute stress has a positive impact on your health. It’s chronic stress that keeps these hormone levels elevated that’s the real killer. Literally.
Stress is key for survival, however too much stress can be detrimental to your health. Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Some signs of stress may include; decreased energy/libido, headaches, bowel irritability, tense muscles, insomnia, chest pains and frequent illness.
I’ve got a lot of things going on in my life, and stress will always be around. Whether it is stress that I’m putting on myself to get a project done, or a difficult conversation that needs to be had; or it’s stress from others (work, family, friends, etc). There are a few things that I wanted to share that I find helpful, in hopes that you may find one or more of these beneficial too.
My “go to” when I feel stress in negatively impacting my life is acupuncture. I first started it 3 or so years ago when I had some really stressful situations taking place in the gym. It was recommended to me by a patient and I loved it! I’ll still go when stress creeps in, or feeling like I’m getting sick. Regardless of the situation, that’s something I keep up with once every few months even if everything is going great!
The second tool is meditation. While I don’t do this as much as I’d like (my daughter is an early riser), I’ll still use some relaxation breathing techniques when needed. There are many apps available, I’d recommend “Headspace”; it’s the one I’ve used for about 2 years. Don’t be overwhelmed here. I’ve got a “busy brain”; but starting slow and giving myself some grace to make mistake has helped. You’ll see benefits in as little as 10 minutes a day.
Exercise is next. It doesn’t have to be a grueling session in the gym either. Get outside in the sun for a jog or a walk with some Vitamin D could be enough. Exercise releases endorphins which is your brains feel good neurotransmitter.
Last but not least is nutrition. Chemical stressors in foods you may be allergic to, or excessive refined foods and sugars will increase general inflammation in your body. Alcohol is common vice that may use in attempt to reduce short term stress, however if alcohol consumption continues, that will lead to increase stressors on the body as a whole. Increasing water, fruits, vegetables and other whole foods to your diet will pay dividends in reducing stress on your body.