Is Stress Stressing You Out?
Symptoms and Solutions: Combatting Stress
Does thinking about the word stress make you shudder? Are you contemplating going to hide at the very thought of it? Well, if you feel this way, you aren’t alone. Most of us have at least experienced a day of our lives that we wish we did not need to leave the house. That the world would just go away for a while so that you could figure things out. What you may not know is that stress is a totally normal response to when there is just too much on your plate. What makes it not normal is over worrying! Much of stress is thinking about stress…and the “holy crap I’m stressed” stigma that we attach to it.
What is stress really?
Well, stress is the body’s reaction to something that taxes or exceeds its resources. Your body only has so much energy to give towards tasks in a day and more and more we test the limits. Think about...hmmm…how about an elevator. Do you hop on to an elevator and say “What the heck! Let’s see how many people we can shove on here before we all go crashing to our death”? I know that I may be reaching here, but why do we expect so much of ourselves?
What are some symptoms of stress?
The overabundance of stress that we face in our modern lives lead to numerous ailments you might not attribute to it.
- Lack of Sleep: Did you lie awake staring at the ceiling…wondering all of the ways that you could possibly botch your speech in the morning? Were you thinking about all of the things that you didn’t quite get to today…and the list of things on your dreaded “TO DO” list? When you don’t sleep, your body has no time to recharge and regenerate. You are limiting your body’s resources…which then leads to more stress.
- Weakened Immune System: If you find that you are getting colds more often than usual and at inconvenient times (like right before your job interview, or a mid-term exam, or even before your wedding day!), you are experiencing the effects of stress on your immune system. All of your loose ends start to fray and you feel even more worn out...sheesh…you find yourself saying “Can’t I ever catch a break!”
- High Blood Pressure: Eeek. As your body responds the daily grind, stress makes your heart pound faster, and your blood pressure rise to fight through the threat you are facing. This response is normally very helpful…you need a little stress to persevere and push yourself to new heights. However, when you become chronically stressed your blood pressure stays high putting you at risk for a heart attach or stroke.
- Wrinkley and Blemished Skin: As if you don’t have enough to think about, now you have a huge zit right in the middle of your forehead! Blemishes arise because excess hormones are released when under excessive stress. You may also find that wrinkles are showing up faster than you’d like, oh my! The cells in your body are weakened and the support system for your skin becomes compromised.
- Aches and Pain: Personally, I experience this tightness in my neck and shoulders that just kills me when I am under pressure. Part of your body’s response to stress is to tighten the muscles and get them ready for use. Most of us aren’t actually standing in front of a bear and in need of this extra muscular boost…but the body has no way to tell the difference and the response is the same.
- Weight Gain: Do you ever wake up on the couch with cheese dust on your fingers and snickers wrappers all around you on the floor? You’re not alone; you have at least me joining you!! You consume more calories than you actually need due to the hormone cortisol. Again because your body doesn’t differentiate between physical or psychological stressors. Now if you were actually running from that aforementioned bear, you may need those snickers bars…but a fight with your BFF may not require the extra caloric intake. Cortisol also sllllloooowwwsss your metabolism so that you don’t burn out of energy when under stress. So all those extra calories hang around and turn into pounds. No thank you!
- Substance Abuse: You may turn to alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to alleviate some stress. The occasional drink, cigarette, and even a hit off a joint, may not cause any problem at all…might get you feeling groovy and get you thinking about the better day tomorrow. For some it creates a pattern of abuse. Chronic stress may lead to chronic drug/ alcohol abuse (which has a whole list of health risks of its own!).
What are some solutions to stress?
So you may be wondering, why the heck is she bringing us down with all this! Well, I know that will each day we all face new challenges and in turn, new possible stressors. Though I think positive and always try to see the bright side of things…there is really no way to prevent all of the blunders in life that cause stress. So what can you do to relieve some of the negative effects of stress?
- Go to the GYM!! Increasing your heart rate and getting your blood pumping releases the neurotransmitter ephedrine, producing a feeling often called “runners high”. Your brain also releases endorphins, often referred to an endorphin rush. You feel fabulous and it takes the edge off. You will also tire yourself out which promotes better sleep patterns…whoo hoo! No more staring at the ceiling in worry!
- Use an Infrared Sauna: I use my infrared sauna almost every day and attribute so much of my well being to it. Not only does it increase your heart rate to give you a cardiovascular work-out (giving off some of those great endorphins we were talking about and burning calories), but it lowers blood pressure, boosts your immune system, naturally cleanses the skin, and relieves aches and pains. Works wonders on my tight shoulders I mentioned before and helps me sleep better at night.
- Yoga: Yoga is another great way to relieve some of the negative feelings that stress can cause. Your aching sore muscles are stretched as you actively relax your mind and body. Through controlled breathing, meditation, physical movement, mental imagery, and of course stretching, you feel immediately renewed. Many attribute a sense of spiritual fulfillment or well-being from yoga as well.
- Find Your Stressors: What the heck is bothering you?! If you take note of the times during your day that cause you stress, you may be able to take preventative action! When I decided to think about it and take a look at why I was feeling stressed out, I realized that some could be easily eliminated and some where just plain silly. Personal example: Driving to my kiddo to school and banging my head on the steering wheel in frustration because of the construction. The construction has been going on for months and though there is no other street for me to take…why oh why did I just not leave 15 minutes earlier.
There are many other ways to combat stress…these have been most helpful to me in my life and I can only hope that you can have even the tiniest bit less irritability with daily life by reading about them. Be well!
Do you know what causes you Stress? Take the Quiz.
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Other Helpful Info on Stress
- Stress: Constant stress puts your health at risk - MayoClinic.com
Stress can wreak havoc on your body and mind unless you learn to manage it.
- Kill Your Stress ... Before Your Stress Kills You!
In a few minutes a day, you can greatly reduce the stress in your life.