Stress is finally been recognised for the serious problem that it is. For decades we’ve had awareness campaigns about illnesses such as cancer and diabetes, but it’s only in the last few years that stress has finally been acknowledged as a series health problem and a considerable contributor to major health conditions.
Career demands, financial pressures, family dynamics, relationship issues can all be stressful. However, stress isn’t just an adult condition; more and more children are displaying symptoms of stress. We live in hectic times, often with little down time or healthy physical activity. Fast food, lack of exercise, exposure to fast-paced mental stimulus, all play havoc with our bodies and minds, creating alarmingly high increases in stress and depression.
When you’re in a stressful situation your body prepares you for a fight or flight response. Your nervous system intervenes by releasing the stress hormone, cortisol. You may notice that your heartbeat speeds up, your breathing becomes faster and shallower, your muscles tense up and you begin to sweat. Then your body gradually and naturally recovers from this short-term stress. You get your breathing back on track and your body relaxes, leaving you feeling safe, calm and able to move on from the stressful experience.
While stress, in general terms, is a normal part of life and we’re naturally designed to deal with it, ongoing stress is another matter as it creates a repeated activation of the fight/flight response in the body. Over time, the overload of cortisol body disrupts the body’s systems, in particular, the immune system. When left untreated, this disruption leads to increased susceptibility to series disease, such as autoimmune conditions. Research now shows that chronic stress can be linked to high blood pressure, depression, heart disease and diabetes.
Chronic stress plays havoc with our bodies and negatively impacts how we feel, it disrupts our sleep patterns, impacts greatly on our diet and our ability to exercise. Stress, and the effects of it, also negatively impacts our relationships with our family and friends.
In order to combat stress:
- Exercise: – Walking is a great way to boost your cardiovascular system. Brisk walking in particular boosts endorphins, which help reduce stress hormones and alleviate mild forms of depression.
- Eat and drink sensibly: – When it comes to combating stress levels, what you eat may actually help relieve your stress and tension. Certain foods help stabilize blood sugar and, better yet, your emotional response, while other foods can aggravate it. Research shows a healthy plant-based diet improves mood, while sugar has been linked to mood disorders. Excessive alcohol consumption has also been linked to increased stress levels in the body.
- Boundaries: – With healthy boundaries, you’re less likely to feel under pressure to meet other people’s expectations or demands. You’re also less likely to take on responsibility for other people. Saying ‘no’ becomes much easier.
- Relaxation: – Finding time every day to simply be helps restore equilibrium within your body, mind and spirit.
- Nature: – When we’re in touch with nature we feel soothed. Research shows that active interaction with plants, indoor or outdoor, can reduce physiological and psychological stress.
What’s your favourite way to combat stress?