Take Control Of Your Stress

Stress is a formidable emotion that can creep into our lives and dictate our day-to-day mental well-being, often before we even realize. Strictly defined, stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. It does not manifest in everyone in the same way and seemingly, some people are not affected at all. The complexities of stress will not be unraveled by a three-hundred word blog post, but let’s try understanding its effect on the body and how we can mitigate some of its negative impacts.

Let us first look at short term or acute stress responses. There are two main responses of the body; first, a flood of hormones is released to make energy stores more accessible and use-able. Second, energy is diverted to where it is needed the most, the muscles and the brain, and it also provides a boost to our immune response. This is achieved by an increase in blood pressure, dilation of blood vessels and increase in heart rate. Things such as digestion and the production of growth hormones are suspended because they are non-essential to our Fight or Flight response.

Now imagine if this kind of response is continuously activated, or maladapts. With continuous stimulation of your cardiovascular system, muscles that constrict the blood vessels thicken, elevating your resting blood pressure and forcing the heart to work harder. There is also a suggestion that your immune system is suppressed under medium and long-term stress, which leads to slower wound healing and increased vulnerability to viral infections. Long-term stress is not something to be light-hearted about as there are strong links to respiratory diseases, exacerbation of autoimmune conditions, cardiovascular disease and poor mental health, to name a few.

Some symptoms to look out for include; frequent headaches, upset stomach, worrying or feeling of anxiety, increased blood pressure, changes in appetite, worsening of existing physical problems, interrupted sleep and back and neck pain.

Now, ironically, writing this has left us pretty stressed out, time to find out what you can do to help reduce the affects of stress on our body.

1. Address the stressors – it is important to recognize what is causing your daily stress. Work related stress is one of the most common forms of stress, and while we can’t stop working, managing our time better to maybe get more sleep will help.

2. Eat and sleep – our diet plays a crucial role in how we feel on a day to day basis. Having a look at our eating and sleeping patterns may uncover some unhealthy habits that are easily changeable.

3. Regular exercise – developing a routine to get more regular exercise is a wonderful way to prepare yourself for the day, or to unwind at the end of it. Find something that you enjoy, or that you can do with friends such as a team sport or group fitness class.

4. Take time out – do something that brings you happiness or a hobby that you can fully immerse yourself in. While finding time can be difficult, it is worth making the effort to introduce this into a weekly routine.

5. Negative thinking – I’m sure we are all guilty of this at some point. Consistently thinking this way all the time has ill effects on stress and will more than likely strip us of motivation to change anything.

6. Professional help – you may wish to seek the help of a professional to learn self-calming techniques such as mindfulness or meditation to calm the mind. Psychologists are equipped with the knowledge to help you address your stress and regain control of your thoughts and emotions.