Your heart is pounding like it is going to jump out of your chest, you are sweaty and feeling kind of numb and strange. Perhaps you are being chased by an angry bear protecting her cubs or maybe you are just at the end of a very crazy, very stressed week.
I would say that your body is having a proper and useful response if you are indeed being chased by a bear. Under such stressful situations, the body has an amazing ability to launch into something known as a “fight or flight” response. Your brain stimulates your autonomic nervous system and triggers a hormonal response. Two stress hormones, cortisol, and adrenaline are released. These hormones can help you escape your close encounter with mama bear but when we are exposed to chronic stress overstimulation of the nervous system occurs and this can have a devastating impact on your health.
Did you know that over 60 percent of all illness and disease is stress related – and therefore, preventable? Three out of every four doctor’s visits have something to do with chronic stress. Stress increases the risk of heart disease by 40 percent, heart disease by 25 percent and stroke by 50 percent. With these staggering truths, it makes getting a handle on chronic stress critical.
How do you know if you are stressed?
The human body is very good at giving signs that it is having trouble “keeping up” with the pace of your life. It is important to not brush these signs, no matter how subtle, away. Here are some things to be aware of:
- Dry skin
- Strange dreams
- Weight gain or inability to lose weight
- Hair loss
- Lowered immunity – you get sick a lot
When stress becomes part of your life and doesn’t leave you may also start to do the following:
- Retreat from social functions
- Feel depressed
- Feel alone
- Feel out of control
- Avoid dealing with difficult personal situations
- Lose your sense of humor
We live in a go-go culture
Our culture promotes and encourages high achievement and that is often marked by doing really well in your job or being a supermom or dad. When societal pressures collide with high standards of living and personal achieving, things can go very wrong.
What can I do about stress?
Here are a few things that have worked for me when it comes to stress management. I suggest that you experiment to find what works best for you. Remember, the key to minimizing the devastating impact of stress on your health and life is to acknowledge it exists in the first place!
Identify priorities and set boundaries – For me, stress begins a lot of the time and builds up because I don’t do well at setting boundaries. I have a hard time saying NO. If this sounds like you, it is time to learn that saying no is something the best option. Help those that you can, but never forget to help yourself!
Breathe – Many people breathe far too shallow. Take five minutes to breathe deeply, from your belly. In through the nose and out through the mouth. Breathing like this will relax your mind and body. Do this several times a day.
Take a break from electronics – We are constantly plugged in and it is very healthy to unplug from time to time. Take at least thirty minutes a day to stop texting, chatting, checking emails and scrolling through your feeds. Your mind and body will thank you.
Eat more garlic – The main ingredient in garlic, when digested, triggers your blood vessels to relax. Garlic is very good for your heart and your brain.
Exercise – Moderate exercise daily such as walking is a great way to manage stress. Take time daily to get outdoors, get a healthy dose of sunshine and nature and just enjoy time breathing fresh air.
Journal or draw – Unloading your thoughts on paper either in print or image form helps your mind and body relax. Get out that paper and pen and give it a try.