How Stress Affects Your Entire Body
Stress isn’t, in and off itself, a bad thing. It’s actually a natural process designed to protect or at least prepare us for imminent danger. Stress helps us run fast to catch a train, or run away from a threat. It’s the trigger to our fight or flight response. Stress motivates us to stop procrastinating and get our work done. It’s what makes us sit down and study for that final exam or to get our taxes done. (or maybe that is fear of the IRS, who knows).
In small doses and for a short time, stress is a good thing. It becomes a problem when we are under too much stress and when it’s constant. Chronic stress is what causes all those negative side effects and health issues like high blood pressure and heart disease. But stress is tricky. It builds up slowly and sneaks up on us.
Often the first signs that you’re stressed out is a general feeling of anxiety and feeling unwell. You may start to have trouble sleeping and it is harder to concentrate and focus. You may be eating more or snacking throughout the day in an effort to keep your energy up. Sweet and salty foods are particularly appealing, and it’s not uncommon to get in the habit of self-medicating with a glass of wine or the like in the evening to unwind.
Chances are you are feeling overwhelmed and it’s all too easy to focus only on the negative. From there it’s just a short trip into depression and loneliness. That comes with its own set of physical symptoms like nausea, dizziness, diarrhea, and such. You are even more likely to come down with the cold or flu as your immune system is compromised.
The problem is that these symptoms of being stressed tend to stress us out even more. We keep pushing harder to make up for lost time, which leads to more stress and increased symptoms. The only way to break the cycle is to address the problem – the stress. We do it by making a conscious effort to cut out stress, relax, and give ourselves, our bodies, and our minds the time and rest they need to recover.
Learn to see the early signs of being too stressed. Take control of it, work on reducing stress, and most importantly—make time to rest and relax so you can recover from the unavoidable stress and pressure life throws at you.
Quick Stress Buster: Take A Breath
Whenever you start to see the signs of stress, its time for a quick stress buster! Today I have another quick tip to share with you for something you can do anytime or anywhere to relieve tension and stress. It’s as simple as taking a deep breath.
That’s right. The simple act of taking a few deliberate and slow breaths can do you a world of good. It’s relaxing, supplies the body with plenty of fresh oxygen, and relives any tension you have built up. But it doesn’t stop there. There are so many different ways to utilize the simple act of breathing to help you relax and release stress.
One of my favorite things to do when I feel stressed out is to head out for a quick walk. Getting out in the fresh air, moving around a little, and simply breathing is a very effective way to release tension, relax, and rejuvenate. You may be worried that it’s a waste of time, especially when you’re on a tight deadline, but trust me and give it a try. You’ll find yourself coming back from a short walk with a lot more energy and a much clearer mind. You’ll easily make up the time you spent outside and feel better. And Lord knows we all need a little Vitamin D everyday too.
Count to Ten
One of the problems with stress is that it has the ability to cause our temper to flare up (am I right?). It’s hard to be kind and patient with those lovely toddlers when you’re under a lot of pressure. Letting that anger out is hardly ever a productive coping strategy. Instead, walk away and make yourself count to ten and take slow, deliberate breaths along the way.
It may not seem like much, but it gives you the break you need to keep your emotions from boiling over and the anger from flaring up. While it may not do much to treat chronic stress in the long run, it is a quick break for your mind and an effective strategy to calm down quickly.
For better long term results, give meditation a try. It’s been shown to be a very effective treatment for stress that comes with all sorts of good health benefits. Breathing meditations are relatively easy to do and you can try them anywhere. The basic idea is to take a few minutes to sit quietly, with your eyes closed, focusing your mind only on your breath. Feel the air flowing in and out of your nose and avoid thinking of anything else. It’s very effective once you get the hang of it. It does take practice, but I encourage you to try it, starting today.
If you have no idea where to start, I recommend the app HeadSpace.
Want more tips for reducing stress? Join my 30 day challenge!