Does it seem as though the stress just won’t go away?
Stress can begin as soon as you wake up. Is it hard to get up? Are you thinking about all that you have to do? Maybe you’re late and need to rush to get ready. All of this puts a toll on the body. Your heart rate goes up, your muscles tense, digestion slows more oxygen is needed so breathing is rapid all to give energy to the present moment. All of this weakens the immune system making you more susceptible to colds, flus and other immune system illnesses.
This body preparation to deal with stress is the same as what happens if a tiger unexpectedly appears before you. You are experiencing a threat. Your pupils dilate to better see better. Your body manufactures energy from all its major systems that it thinks is needed to fight the tiger. And even though facing the tiger is a real danger, when the tiger is gone, the mind and body can be at rest.
With the daily stressors of living, stressful situations tax the body and the mind. The days repeat and stress becomes chronic. The body is always in a state of fight or flight. The brain does not know the difference between a real or perceived threat. When the tiger is gone and there are no immediate threats, the mind and body can be at rest. It’s the constant stressors that keep the mind and body in a constant state of being on call. This pressure on the major systems of the body becomes a chronic. Think of those who live in war zones where the threat is constant.
Everyone experiences stress
It’s hard to imagine that one can exist without stress. Whether it’s being in the rush, concerns about a friend, children or love ones. Whether you succeed in a goal or not able to succeed in a goal can present with stress. Cleaning the house, completing a project, a health concern and the many demands of life all create stressors.
Stress only becomes a problem when it gets out of hand. Stress puts a pretty big toll on our bodies and can lead to anxiety, fatigue, depression, and just a general lack of energy.
Stress can be good.
The right amount of stress can be a good feeling. It is something we need to be progressive and safe. Sometimes we pay money to seek the stress from a helicopter ride or parachute journey. For some it comes from entertainment, seeking thrills, a scary movie, or a roller coaster ride. Usually, these stressors are short term and relatively safe. When the excitement is over, our body rests, unlike chronic stress.
Here’s what chronic stress does
Chronic stress is the constant daily way of life that taxes your mental health and physical health. When a stressful situation appears, we usually think that the worse can happen. Either we’ll be late, someone close to us will become ill, or is ill or has passed along. The body reacts by producing a hormone called cortisol. This hormone provides energy to the body to help it to prepare either to run or fight. It’s the right solution for the situation. However, too much stress may prevent enough production of cortisol. This can result in obesity, heart disease, or osteoporosis. When too much of the hormone is produced it can lead to baldness and challenges with memory.
Stress senses danger, prompting the body to prepare for survival.
Digestion slows for increase in energy. In a chronic state, this can lead to gastrointestinal disorders.
Stress creates feelings of anxiety. Anxiety triggers stress eating for carbohydrates and fatty foods to increase the serotonin level in the brain. Serotonin is the feel-good chemical. Are you craving a big piece of chocolate cake? That might explain the extra storage of fat in the body.
Your muscles tense to help it prepare to fight or to run. Constant muscle tension can create muscular conditions. Neck, back and headaches can be frequent. Jaw muscles and teeth grinding can also be triggered by the tension.
Blood is rapidly needed and it is pumped faster and harder as needed for action. Unfortunately, this action can become can become irreversible. It’s when your body believes you need to constantly maintain a high blood pressure and the heart muscles that problems occur. This can lead to the risk of heart disease, heart attacks and even a stroke.
Your brain has been hyper-aroused all day. Then when it’s time to sleep, the brain has a hard time turning off.
The body needs more oxygen to fuel the fight or flight response, which can cause us to start breathing more rapidly. And in order to breathe quickly, we take shallow, more superficial breaths instead of fewer, deep ones. Before you know it, you’re short of breath and, in severe cases, maybe even hyperventilating. Consciously taking deep breaths can have the opposite effect by activating the calming parasympathetic nervous system. Stress also predisposes us to inflammation, which can make asthma attacks more likely.
What you may be wondering
I’m not always under stress. There are times I find ways to relieve my stressors through activities.
That is great. Fun-loving activities are sources of good living and good health. The question is “Are you getting enough?” “Do you want more?”
I really don’t have the time to make a lifestyle change
Lifestyle changes are probably one of the more difficult things to do. Not only are there the demands of your time, but even doing something different can be challenging. One of the hardest things to do is to change the brain to even do something differently. A simple technique, such as deep breathing could be beneficial during a moment of stress.
There are others in my life who would dismiss my effort to make a change
Self sabotage or those who sabotage our efforts is common. Change is difficult. For others close to you may find your efforts to change as a threat, particularly if they desire the change you seek and not ready to make it. If you are ready, we can explore ways to minimize that threat for yourself and others.
Break the cycle
So, you may be wondering, ‘How do I let go of the stress.’ You are sensitized to the stress. It is such a part of you that you may not be able to distinguish how much a part of you it is. There are many ways to do this. The idea is to develop a pattern of using stress-relieving techniques. This way, it becomes a part of life.
While smoking, alcohol, food binging may offer some quick relief they are short-term fixes. Be sure to seek long-term solutions. Seek professional help to prepare you to balance all the stressors.
Not everything works for everyone. It’s important to find those activities with staying power to make the change a part of life.
Here is a checklist of things you can do. You may have others to add to the list.
- Deep breathing
- Aerobic exercise
- Weight training
- Clinical hypnosis
- Guided imagery
- Listening to music
- Bubble bath
- Playing an instrument
- Healthy eating
What you can do
Find ways you can de-stress. Recall times you enjoyed peace and relief in life. Maybe there were things that you did as a child that you found soothing. Reflect on grasping those moments that offer joy. Do something you love. Find what works for you. Don’t forget to breathe deeply.
Affect Change In Your Life.
If you’re in Cincinnati, Ohio and want to make or break a habit, create motivation and direction in your life or work through a life transition, I can help. I invite you to call 513-244-6990 for a free 15-minute call. I’m happy to discuss your needs and goals and answer questions you have about personal development counseling and my practice.