If you are like a large percentage of the population, you have a lot of stress in your life. Stress can sometimes be so powerful in our lives that it affects every area and leaves us feeling anxious, maybe even a little depressed, and feeling really overwhelmed.
What is Stress and What Causes It?
We tend to feel stressed when we’re worrying about something going on in our lives, or it can be something we perceive might happen, which causes anxiety. We may have a stressful job, or there may be something going on with our family — perhaps illness, or an aging parent we are dealing with, or even problems our children might be having in school. I read recently that stress is the result of feeling threatened. All these types of things can cause us to be stressed. The dictionary describes stress as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”
Chronic stress can have a serious and damaging effect on us. Most people are aware of some of the basic reactions our bodies might have to stress:
- Stress on the kidneys
- Elevated blood pressure
- Stress on the heart
- Muscle tension
- Migraines and headaches
- Back pain
- Knots in the shoulders and neck
- Digestive issues (including heartburn and indigestion)
- Back pain
As stress floods the brain with strong hormones meant for short-term emergency situations — like adrenaline (more commonly known as the “flight or fight response) — prolonged or chronic exposure can damage, shrink or kill brain cells.
- Stress alters blood sugar levels which is a threat for diabetes; it can also cause mood changes, fatigue and blood sugar disorder.
- Stress increases cytokines (important in health and disease, specifically in response to infection, immune responses, inflammation, trauma and sepsis), which produce inflammation.
- Stress decreases the body’s immune response to infection.
- Stress is one of the main factors in sleep disorders and insomnia.
- The stress hormone, cortisol, causes accumulation of abdominal fat as well as causing enlarging of the individual fat cells leading to what researches are calling “diseased” fat
This is all pretty scary and serious stuff and should make us rethink how we view stress. Since it seems to be such a common occurrence with our busy lifestyles, we probably don’t take stress as seriously as we should. Still, in response to stress, we should give serious consideration to what kind of stress-relieving protocols we should add to our daily lives. I don’t think anyone of us really wants to be in the position where we experience the long-term effects of stress.
So what can we do to alleviate stress? Well there are many things actually. As individuals, there are some stress relievers we are drawn to more than others. However, we should be open minded about how we deal with our stress. You might be surprised how effective one stress-reliever can be for you when maybe it didn’t have much of an appeal to you.
Here are a five relaxation techniques you can use to alleviate stress:
Physical Exercise – even if you are not big on exercising, taking a simple walk outside can help. Joggers often find much relief from stress as they push on with their exercise.
Meditation – there are many meditation techniques; some as easy as visualization where you can visualize yourself in some happy place, like sitting on a beach with the waves lapping in the background, the sun shining and the birds chirping around you.
Massage therapy – some really benefit from this whether it is a deep tissue massage, relaxation, or swedish.
Laughter – as it is said, “laughter is good for the soul.” Go watch a funny movie, or spend time with a friend who makes you laugh.
Breathing – there are many types of breathing techniques; some are as simple as just taking deeps breaths in and blowing out.
All of these things can help, and of course, I have just touched the surface on relaxation techniques. In addition, it is always good to take some “me” time when you are feeling stressed. “Me” time might include something like simply taking some time alone to read a good book, or taking a trip to the beach – whether alone or with friends and family. You might feel it to be beneficial sitting in a room with some aromatherapy making its way into your nostrils, calming you and relaxing you.
The most important thing is that you recognize that while it may feel like stress is a “normal” part of your life, that really is not how you ultimately should be living your life. It is not healthy to be living “stressfully” for a long period of time. You need to learn how to isolate your stress and then actively work on ways to reduce that stress. Learn to incorporate some relaxation techniques into your life to help you cope — that can be as easy as learning some simple breathing techniques so that when you feel the stress and anxiety hit you, you can breathe in and out deeply, or engage in some other simple breathing technique to help you out in the short term, and then find some more long term techniques to incorporate into your routine. Try to be proactive with your stress.
I have learned many stress techniques while being a health coach. These have really helped me when dealing with migraines (especially if stress-induced), stress, and other health issues. I have learned how to incorporate some daily techniques into my life. Of course, there are times when I forget, but the good thing is that once you learn how to use relaxation techniques, if you do forget, it is easier to pick back up and manage the stress again.
If you are living with stress and need some help learning how to cope, please take advantage of a free call with me to strategize over some things you can incorporate in your life to help you manage your stress. There is hope and there is help.