Traffic. Tantrums. Deadlines. Money. Too much work. Not enough sleep. No time to think, much less eat right.
Sound familiar? Stress is all around us. It’s become a normal part of daily life, and we often don’t even notice it’s doing any damage to our bodies until the symptoms are too clear for denial. Recent studies have discovered that significant biological changes take place in your body when you’re feeling stressed out- such as depression and weight gain from less activity; or worse yet suppressed immune systems which can lead to heart disease, cancer, stroke… The list goes on an on!
So if you are feeling stressed out, its time to get some relief. Learn about stress: how to identify it, and how to find relief.
Why Do We Get Stressed?
Stress is a normal physical reaction to an internal or external pressure that is placed on your system. People react to most stressful situations with the “fight or flight” response. The body is flooded with stress hormones, making the heart pump faster, the breathing rate increase, and the muscles tense up. This is the body’s way of gearing up for imminent physical activity. For instance, if you are in a minor car accident, your may feel a surge of energy that allows you to escape the car and help others out as well.
However, sometimes the stress is emotional rather than physical and the body is not allowed to release the physical tension created by stress hormones. If you’re stuck in a traffic jam and late for a meeting, there is little that you can safely do to release the buildup of stress hormones in your body. Over time, stress can lead to back pain, headaches, raised blood pressure, indigestion, sweating, palpitations, irritability, and anxiety. It can also contribute to the development of such diseases as cold sores, ulcers, and heart disease.
What Causes Our Stress?
There are basic two categories of stressors that may be causing you grief. External stressors such as traffic jams, financial hardship, or even environmental toxins, are often beyond our control. Internal stressors, on the other hand, usually develop as a result of our own personality traits and emotions. It’s our ability to handle these internal and external stressors that determines the amount of stress we actually feel. And while they seemingly offer quick bit of stress relieving pleasure, chemical substances such as drugs, alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, sugar, deplete the body of energy and are further sources of stress.
How Can We Prevent Stress?
There’s no way to prevent it completely. However, there are various stress management techniques that can reduce the effects that stress has on your life. The most important thing you can do to prevent stress from negatively affecting you is to learn how to recognize stress and the triggers that set you off. Also, avoid using crutch substances like alcohol, drugs, and nicotine, as doing so will help the body remain better prepared to handle stress.
Am I Stressed Out?
Ask yourself the following questions:
Are you a “control freak,” insisting that everything be done your way?
Do you have difficulty sleeping, because you’re going over the day, or worrying about tomorrow?
Do you have a hard time showing your emotions?
Do you feel overwhelmed by your number of daily tasks?
Being able to identify your personal physical and psychological responses to stress is critical to reducing its negative effects on your life. If you try to deny the existence of stress, or “tough it out” in hopes that it will go away, you are more likely to intensify its effects rather than relieve them.
The physical symptoms of stress include dry mouth and throat, tight muscles in the neck, shoulders and back, chronic neck and back problems, headaches, indigestion, tremors, muscle tics, insomnia, and fatigue. Emotional symptoms include difficulty in concentrating, feeling tense, irritability, impulsive behavior, difficulty in making a decision, poor judgment, difficulty relating to (and trusting) other people, negative thinking, brooding, worrying, depression, anxiety, or feelings of worthless.
Tobacco, alcohol, and drug misuse may also be signs of stress.
Now that you can recognize the triggers that are making you stressed, you will be better prepared for dealing with these situations. Try these techniques for relieving stress before it becomes a problem.
Get Physical: Physical exercise, whether it’s yoga, football, walking, or dance therapy, can help to relive any built up stress hormones in the body and promote a general relaxation of the nervous system.
It’s All In Your Mind: Use mental exercises such as meditation, guided imagery, art, and playing music, even just a good jigsaw puzzle to reduce stress and promote relaxation in your life.
Get Connected: Sometimes, all it takes to relieve stress in your life is to talk about the stressor with a close friend or family member. Pet therapy has also been reported to relieve stress.
Eat Up and Eat Well: Stress suppresses the immune system and can cause or aggravate conditions such as heart disease and ulcers. Dietary changes, such as reducing coffee and other caffeinated beverages can also reduce the jitteriness, restlessness, anxiety, and insomnia that might magnify the effects of stress. Likewise, whole grains promote production neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, resulting in a greater sense of well being.