Stress Causes Physiological Changes in our bodies.
It wasn’t probably until the 1970’s that the word stress was used on such a regular basis. It seems that everyone says they are stressed at least once a day now. Before this we were angry, frustrated, sad, happy, but now it seems everyone is stressed and depressed. While the word is definitely over used stress has sadly become all too common, perhaps we have lost the ability to cope, and be more resilient as we tend to over protect our children from experiencing what life dishes out. I saw this quote only yesterday which made me smile.
“life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how u react to it ..Live life to the fullest… think of all the people on the Titanic who passed up chocolate dessert”.
However what we do know is that stress does have an adverse effect on our bodies and physiological changes do occur. Our brains do respond to what we all know as the “flight or fight syndrome”. Your brain is telling your body to get ready for what is about to happen. In response we see a rise in heart rate, increase in blood pressure, our digestive processes increase, and adrenaline is released from our adrenal glands above the kidneys and we see an increase in cortisol released in our bodies. It is the cortisol that we need to worry about most of all. While cortisol has a role to play in relation to glucose metabolizing properly, regulating blood pressure, releasing insulin for glucose balance, assisting our immune system, reducing inflammation, increasing memory, lowering sensitivity to pain, and provideing a quick burst of energy, the chronic release of cortisol in our blood stream over long periods will however impair cognitive thought, increase blood pressure and is also responsible for abdominal fat deposits. This release over long periods also has an abnormal effect on cells which can cause some cancers.
Therefore it is imperative that we learn how to prevent long bouts of stress and anxiety. The following may help with you being able to manage your own personal stress levels.
Eat and drink sensibly. Alcohol and food abuse may seem to reduce stress, but it actually adds to it.
Assert yourself. You do not have to meet others’ expectations or demands. It’s okay to say “No.” Remember, being assertive allows you to stand up for your rights and beliefs while respecting those of others.
Stop smoking or other bad habits. Aside from the obvious health risks of cigarettes, nicotine acts as a stimulant and brings on more stress symptoms. Give yourself the gift of dropping unhealthy habits.
Exercise regularly. Choose non-competitive exercise and set reasonable goals. Aerobic exercise has been shown to release endorphins (natural substances that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude).
Study and practice relaxation techniques. Relax every day. Choose from a variety of different techniques. Combine opposites; a time for deep relaxation and a time for aerobic exercise is a sure way to protect your body from the effects of stress.
Take responsibility. Control what you can and leave behind what you cannot control.
Reduce stressors (cause of stress). Many people find that life is filled with too many demands and too little time. For the most part, these demands are ones we have chosen. Effective time-management skills involve asking for help when appropriate, setting priorities, pacing yourself, and taking time out for yourself.
Examine your values and live by them. The more your actions reflect your beliefs, the better you will feel, no matter how busy your life is. Use your values when choosing your activities.
Set realistic goals and expectations. It’s okay, and healthy, to realize you cannot be 100% successful at everything at once.
Sell yourself to yourself. When you are feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself of what you do well. Have a healthy sense of self-esteem.
- Deep breathing exercises
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Mental imagery relaxation
- Relaxation to music
- Biofeedback (explained below)
- Counselling, to help you recognize and release stress
(Many thanks to the Cleveland Clinic for use of some of the information they disseminate to the community)
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