Stress is a regular part of daily life. Any change that requires an adjustment or response leads to a mental, physical, or emotional reaction aka stress. You experience it daily. That irritation and tension you feel while stuck in traffic, the anxiety about being late to an appointment, or that rush of adrenaline when you’re facing a deadline at work. All of these are examples of typical daily stress.
Stress has a variety of forms. Some are positive, like the anticipation of planning your wedding. Others are acute, like dealing with a fender bender. There are also chronic forms of stress like caring for a terminally ill loved one.
The body is designed to experience stress and react. It’s called the “fight or flight” response. The positive effects are alertness, clarity of thought and the ability to respond to danger. Stress becomes problematic when it’s chronic and untreated. Continuous stress without relief can lead to a variety of health problems.
Stress Related Health Problems:
Headaches: Nagging, persistent headaches may be due to stress-induced tension and constriction of blood vessels.
Elevated Blood Pressure: When faced with stress, the body releases the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol into the blood. These hormones make the heart beat faster and constrict blood vessels, leading to an increase in blood pressure.
Insomnia: Racing thoughts and anxiety due to stress can cause sleep disorders, which lead to more stress. It becomes a vicious circle.
Depression: Chronic stress leads to elevated cortisol and reduced output of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which have been linked to depression.
Anxiety: Anxiety is an irrational or exaggerated fear response to stress. The effects can be singular or it can become a chronic condition or disorder. Left unchecked, anxiety disorders can become crippling for some people.
Obesity: The stress hormone cortisol has been shown to directly affect fat storage and weight gain. Cortisol triggers the release of glucose from your tissues while simultaneously signaling the body to store fat.
Diabetes: Chronic elevated rates of the stress hormone Cortisol triggers the release of glucose from the tissues. Over time, the body cannot keep up with the demands and insulin resistance occurs. Eventually, insulin resistance can lead to the development of diabetes.
Asthma: Stress causes constriction of the blood vessels which may trigger or worsen asthma attacks.
Muscle Pain: Extreme stress tends to cause tension throughout the body which can lead to muscle pain.
Fatigue: In cases of acute stress, the body becomes energized and thought processes become crystal clear due to the sudden rush of adrenaline secreted into the body. In chronic, low-level stress, like most of us are experiencing in modern times, there is a constant drain on the bodies resources that leads to fatigue. The adrenal glands can no longer keep up with the brains signals resulting in fatigue and feelings of heaviness.
It’s been estimated that as many as 75 – 90% of doctor’s visits are for stress related ailments. Many who are suffering from issues brought on by chronic stress don’t realize it. Managing stress is essential to preventing larger health problems and fortunately it’s easy to do.
There are daily habits you can develop today that will protect you from the negative effects of stress.
Check out our 3 top stress busters and get your zen back.
Daily exercise is not only good for your health, it is a natural stress buster. Those who exercise regularly experience an increase of “feel good” hormones that battle the effects of stress. Exercise conditions the body and no matter what type of exercise you do, you can get anti-stress benefits.
Don’t have a lot of time in your busy day? Try a simple 10 minute mini-workout challenge. Want to get in shape and relax at the same time? Water aerobics provides the benefits of cardio without the stress to the joints. Need to relax at the end of a long day? Reconnect mind and body with our evening yoga for relaxation.
Studies have shown that meditation reduces stress and improves overall health and well-being. Take a few minutes each day to still the mind and come to full and present awareness and watch your stress melt away like magic. Unsure about meditation or if it’s right for you? Perhaps you’ve tried it and didn’t get the results you expected? Check out our page on finding time to meditate to learn some tips and tricks that will have you feeling mindful and relaxed in no time. Some people prefer a guided meditation and so many great apps like Beginners Meditation Techniques Pro: Guided Meditations for Beginners offer that option.
Make Time for Yourself
Most of us tend to neglect personal time. Who has time for “me time” when there are so many priorities vying for your attention? Regularly taking time to recharge your batteries will make you more productive! Setting yourself as a priority relieves stress, which in turn leaves you better equipped to face the challenges of each day.
Spend some time regularly doing something you love. Garden, walk in nature, curl up with a good book and a hot cup of tea – whatever it is that makes you feel relaxed and rejuvenated. Need some good book ideas? Check out our “books to devour” Pinterest page for reading ideas and take 5 today.