What is stress?
Stress as we know it today is a relatively modern term and has become a “normal” part of our everyday lives. It refers to the body’s response to any change or adjustment in the environment, caused by thoughts and emotions!
A looming work deadline, an argument with a friend, an unexpected health diagnosis, or a global pandemic: it all causes stress.
When we feel stressed, our bodies react – a racing heartbeat, sweaty palms, shallow breathing, and maybe even an upset stomach. When stress becomes chronic (feelings of overwhelm day in and day out), these physical responses become less noticeable, but the internal impacts of stress hormones can result in major consequences to our wellbeing!
Being exposed to chronic stress causes diseases!
If we don’t take the cause away, our body will force us to make time for the disease. It’s exactly what the word says ‘a body that’s not at ease’. It will shut down until there’s no way to ignore it any longer!
The stress response is not perfect.
Our reptilian brain (oldest part of our brain) takes over in highly stressful situations. The frontal part of the ‘modern’ brain shuts down. We can no longer think clearly. Our “freeze, fight or flight” response initiated by the nervous system, tells us that we are in great danger! The release of stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) tells the body to preserve as much energy as possible to fight off the “threat” (the stress) which means shuttling blood away from our digestive and immune system and instead towards limbs so we can fight or run away very quickly.
Unfortunately, our body cannot tell the exact difference between real danger or just constant exposure to external stress factors…
Biologically, this is a good thing because we would want this response to occur if we were indeed life-threatened by someone or something. But our perception of daily stress in our environment, can be extremely damaging to our health.
What are the health impacts of stress ?
When we experience chronic stress, there is a steady release of stress hormones leading to increased inflammation that harms our health in unmistakable ways.
From headaches, fatigue, chest pain, mood swings, and troubled sleeping to mental illness, cancer, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular dysfunction, eating disorders, breathing disorders etc.
When we experience stress, it’s common to have trouble sleeping, and multiple sleepless nights can aggravate feelings of stress, perpetuating a vicious cycle. Lack of sleep can decrease your performance the following day, affecting your focus as well as your mood ! Over time, continuous lack of sleep contributes to poor blood sugar control, increased food cravings, and risk for diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Chronic stress can also lead to the development of mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, due to cortisol (stress hormone) remaining elevated in the bloodstream.
Cortisol affects your “feel good” neurotransmitter (serotonin) in the brain. With heightened cortisol and decreased serotonin, feelings of anxiety and depression are much more likely to develop.
Unfortunately this is what we see nowadays with a lot of people of all genders and ages, who can’t cope any longer with the constant pressure exposed to them (social restrictions, political conflicts, expectations at work, family situations, relationship issues, childhood experiences …) . Research shows highly increased rates of people going to their health practitioner with psychological or physical complaints because of stress. Even very young children show clear signals (skin diseases, difficult behaviour, restless nights …) that they can’t cope with all of it. Unfortunately suicide statistics have never been so high … We got to slow down and connect with our ‘inner side’ if we want to stay healthy.
7 impactful tips to stop stress attacks.
The world changes fast, and so we try to adapt to our environment in a healthy, happy way.
Stressful situations are inevitable, but the good news is that managing stress effectively is absolutely possible !
We can feel eager, excited, thrilled, proud, resilient, determined, fulfilled or in a state of flow, to cope and develop greater strength, determination and courage. Those moments we feel stress, but it’s motivating in nature, stress can be in our advantage!
- Creating a presentation at work that could lead to a potential promotion.
- Deciding to marry your partner.
- Studying for a class you are taking for personal development
Here’s what we can do for staying healthy and happy in times of stress:
- focus on gratitude (smile as much as possible)
- limit social media, the news and tv
- schedule time for problem-solving/ worrying
- practice pushing the “pause-button” + go outside + breathe consciously
- let go of things we can’t control
- step into action for things we can control
- take responsibility for our feeling, thinking and behaviour
Even if you only incorporate one of my tips into your routine today, such as blocking time on your calendar to deal with stressors instead of intermittently throughout the day, it will soon become your second nature.
Over time, you’ll find it easier to incorporate more stress-management techniques into your behavior and thinking, leading to lower levels of stress and creating a healthier mind and body.
If you want a 1 on 1 talk with me about stress, anxiety or inner conflicts and how to deal with it , contact me here. I can help you out.