Stress is not a nice word and no one really likes to talk about it or admit to just how much it controls our lives.
It makes us feel bad, drains our energy, fogs up our thinking, makes us snap at our friends and family, and causes us to rush through life without even taking a breath.
Have you ever thought about finding some healthy (and fun!) ways to get stress under control?
Is All Stress Bad For You?
All stress isn’t necessarily bad… bad stress is BAD!
We need some amount of stress in our lives because without it, we wouldn’t be motivated to protect ourselves, take chances in life, or perform at our best.
A certain level of stress helps us to adapt to our environment, as part of the evolutionary process. Some biological and environmental stress helped us get to where we are today as human beings.
But the stress that is problematic is the constant day-to-day kind, which can affect you negatively in many ways.
Where Does Stress Come From?
One of the biggest sources of stress comes from what you think and how you feel.
Negative thoughts and emotions like fear, anger, bitterness, shame, guilt, etc., are notorious for triggering stress, whether you are conscious of it or not.
When you bottle up your emotional energies, they often build up, creating a huge internal pressure on the body, immune system, and overall health.
Many unresolved life traumas especially when you are young, can create a vicious cycle of hidden psychological stress, which can eat away at your health over the years.
Physical conditions related to work are common stresses, like commuting long distances in traffic, doing physical labor, and even sitting all day can actually be stressful.
Believe it or not, over exercising can cause stress on your muscles and adrenals. Unfortunately, it seems to be all the rage to go to gym and do 60+ minutes of cardio 5 or more times a week. This kind of wear and tear on the body will eventually break down muscle, cause fatigue, and in most cases, lead to over-training and burnout.
The Downside of Stress
So if your foot is always on the gas pedal but you are in idling in neutral, the engine is going to rev really high, but not go anywhere.
Chronic stress is like this… it just stays on all the time and the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline that prepare you for emergencies, begin to turn toxic in body.
Over time these stress hormones (particularly cortisol) and excess glucose in your blood, start to damage the body, breaking down tissue and organs, stressing nerves, altering digestion, and affecting the brain.
The biggest downside of long-term stress is that you loose function, control over your life (stress controls you not the other way around), and your quality of life diminishes, sometimes even permanently.
Stress Messes With Your Happiness
Chronic every day stress can overwhelm you and control your life if you let it. But the solution is not to ignore the warning signs and symptoms of chronic stress, hoping they just go away.
Unfortunately, no part of the body is immune to stress’ vicious cycle.
Stress slows down or prevents nutrient absorption, produces too much acid and enzymes, binds up or loosens the bowels, and more. Your gut bacteria directly communicate with the immune system and brain, so stress in the gut can trigger anything from stomachaches to mood swings.
2. Brain & Cognitive Abilities
Chronic stress can slow down thinking and brain function making it hard to concentrate, make good decisions and take action, and makes you more accident-prone.
Stress over time actually kills brain cells. There is also a part of the brain that is in charge of turning off stress hormones, which stops working under chronic stress, so you end up with more stress.
Excess stress hormones like cortisol, contributes to the accumulation of dangerous belly fat and worsens cravings for fat, salt, and sugar.
Stress can cause emotional eating, which may satisfy and sooth you in the short term, but it creates sugar imbalance, causes weight gain, and other problems long-term.
Your body follows a rhythm every hour of the day. Sleep is an important regulator of your biorhythm and when it’s disrupted because you’re stressed-out and anxious, so are the hormones and energies that control every system and function in the body.
Naturally if you get a bad night’s sleep, you’ll really pay for it the next day.
There have been studies showing a direct correlation between chronic stress and things like headaches, joint pain and muscle pain. Stress seems to intensify arthritis pain and back pain.
Don’t forget physical stress can induce backaches, tight neck and shoulders, and tension headaches.
If you can’t relax, you may wind up being anxious, constantly worried, or even end up depressed.
Chronic stress is even associated with a sense of loneliness, isolation, and feeling like your life is out of control.
Most importantly, your mental and emotional well-being directly affects your relationships at home and work.
Chronic stress makes you age faster. Because the stress response dims down or turns off all unnecessary body processes, you start to loose function and vitality.
You lose the urge to eat and take care of yourself, have sex, you start to suffer memory issues, you don’t want to exercise, you lose social connections, and more.
5 Stress Busting Strategies
Do you need to let go of some stress in your life? These tips will help you take some of the pressure off.
1. Write down your biggest stressors and figure out a plan of action to reduce them. Don’t sweat it when it comes to the small one-off stresses. Remember, not all stress carries the same weight. Go through your list and think of a strategy to reduce your overall stress load. Over several months, engage those strategies every time you’re overwhelmed by stress.
2. Practice mindfulness during the day by simply being conscious of everything you do i.e., what you think, how you feel, what your body is doing, what is going on around you. Being mindful puts you in the present moment. When you gently bring all your attention to what’s here and now, you’ll find you can’t hold onto stress.
3. Get some stress-busting routines and follow them religiously whenever you feel overwhelmed by life. These can be: taking mini-breaks to release steam during the day, doing little burst exercises for 5-10 minutes a few times a day, taking a break and walking outside or up/down the stairs, or simply closing your eyes and visualizing a happy place you love.
4. Just breath. Incredibly, breathing has the power to diffuse the stress response. Deep breathing from your belly is connected to the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you feel calm and relaxed.
5. If you can’t solve your stress problems on your own, get support from friends and family. Realizing that you’re not alone in your suffering and struggles will actually help reduce the stress.
Just to Recap on Getting a Stress-Proof Life…
- For most of us, stress is just not going to go away (but it can be managed)
- No part of the body is immune to stress’ vicious cycle
- Stress packs on the pounds (especially around the belly)
- Manage stress around the things in life you can control like diet and lifestyle habits
Disclaimer: the views and nutritional advice expressed in this publication are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical advice. No information provided should be interpreted as a diagnosis of any disease, nor an attempt to treat or prevent or cure any disease or condition. All information in this publication is for educational purposes only and Aine-Marie and Advesta Health encourages its clients and members to continue to work in a partnership with qualified medical professional. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider or seek medical assistance. Reading, sharing, or downloading this publication does not establish a doctor patient relationship with Aine-Marie or any Advesta Health employee or consultant including any of our licensed health practitioners, coaches, dieticians or nutritionists.