Stress is a natural physical response that helps us cope during emergencies. It makes our bodies produce the chemicals, adrenaline and cortisol, that raise our heart rate and blood pressure as well as increasing mental focus so that we can perform at our peak when we sense that we’re in danger.
In the short term stress is a very handy thing. The stress response or fight-or-flight response has been a key to survival from the time of our early ancestors. It increases strength, stamina, speed, your reaction time and enhances your focus.
Stress can occur from many things. Work, school, relationships, financial problems, major life changes, being too busy or family problems just to name a few.
“Everyone experiences a little stress from time to time and this is completely normal. When you become stressed all the time this can become a major problem because the chemicals produced build up and can damage your physical and mental health.”
Constant stress lowers the effectiveness of your immune system. The stress hormone, cortisol, suppresses the white blood cells’ ability to work effectively in your immune system. It can act as a signal that stops immune system cell activity. In small amounts, cortisol stimulates the immune system but when prolonged, it causes havoc. When the immune cells are stimulated for too long they begin to break down, rendering them useless in fighting disease. They begin to destroy healthy tissue instead of pathogens.
When cortisol lingers in our bodies it increases our desire to eat more carbohydrates to compensate for lack of energy. This usually leads to weight gain in the stomach because fat cells in the abdomen are more sensitive to the hormone and are very effective at storing energy. Weight gain in the stomach area is one of the most dangerous places in the body for storing fat. It can lead to many serious health problems like diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease.
Cortisol is a Gluconeogenic hormone. Gluconeogenesis is a process that creates sugar from existing tissue. This promotes the breakdown of healthy muscle, bone, and connective tissue in order to increase blood sugar for the brain.
There are many natural, positive ways that you can deal with stress without going to the doctor.
Deep breathing has proven to be very effective in relieving stress and can be done anywhere. The key is to breathe deeply from the abdomen, rather than shallow breaths from the upper chest. When you take deep breaths you inhale more oxygen. The more oxygen you get, the less tense, short of breath, and anxious you will feel. Breathe deeply through your nose and exhale through your nose. Practising this for a few minutes a day will prove effective in lowering stress.
Any form of exercise is another way to relieve stress, whether it is an intense bike ride or some calm yoga. Exercise releases a flood of endorphins which in turn make you feel good about yourself and elevate your mood. Exercise is said to be meditation in motion because it distracts you from your worries as well as a huge boost in confidence. No matter what your level of fitness, try a bit of exercise to relieve stress.
And if stress persists, make sure your see your doctor or medical service and get it checked out.
It is thought that we have much more control of our bodies and minds than we think. A good way to get in touch with this is through meditation. Meditation is free and can be done almost anywhere – all you need is a quiet, comfortable environment either outside or in your own home. With practice, meditation can produce a deep state of relaxation and tranquillity. You can focus your attention to eliminate thoughts that are crowding your mind in times of stress. The process results in a heightened physical and emotional wellbeing.
Sticking to a healthy diet is another key way to keeping unhealthy amounts of stress at bay. When constantly stressed our bodies go into overdrive and use up much more energy than usual. To counteract this you must eat foods that are able to sufficiently and healthily give your bodies the nutrients they need. It’s common for people to crave foods high in carbs when stressed but you must eat the right ones. As said earlier, if you don’t maintain a healthy diet it may result in the gaining of unhealthy stomach fat. As well as keeping you healthy, a healthy diet will result in feel good endorphins, these will make you feel good about yourself and help relieve stress.
Research is now suggesting that owning an animal can have many health benefits. Pets don’t judge, they have an unconditional love for you and although they can’t talk, it is thought that spending time with your pet may be even more effective than spending time with a friend or even family. Pets have an amazing ability to elevate mood, relieve stress and lower blood pressure, they also encourage you to get out and exercise. A furry friend isn’t for everyone but if you’re under stress give owning a pet a go, it may greatly help.
Negative ways to try and deal with stress are smoking, drinking, overeating or under eating, isolating yourself from friends and family, using pills or drugs, sleeping too much, procrastinating, avoiding problems or spending hours in front of the TV or computer.
When people are stressed they often think having a cigarette will calm them down. This is the complete opposite. Cigarettes contain the drug nicotine which is actually a stimulant. It raises the heartbeat and blood pressure which will leave you feeling more uneasy than beforehand.
It is also widely believed that alcohol will help relieve stress. In low doses this can sometimes be true but when alcohol is overused it may actually trigger the body’s stress response. Alcohol induces a hormone release by the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands resulting in stress. Chronic exposure to alcohol also results in an increase of adrenaline.
Stress is something that everyone will experience at some point in their lives. Times can be tough but eventually things will get better. If you ever find the stress too much be sure to try these simple yet effective techniques. If they don’t work, visit your local GP or Aboriginal Medical Service because help is always out there if you need it.