Have you ever felt physically ill because of stress? You're not alone. The relationship between stress and physical health is well-established. Stress is an inevitable part of life. It can come from work, relationships, or even personal issues. While stress can sometimes be beneficial, chronic stress can have a severe impact on your physical and mental health. It can lead to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and other health problems. Today we will explore the physical effects of stress and five ways to cure stress and take back control of your life.
Lets Talk Stress
Stress is a major factor that can affect your physical health. It is a response that is hardwired into your body and can travel throughout your entire body. Although stress can be advantageous in the short term, chronic stress can cause damage to your brain and other organs and cells throughout your body.
The Science of Stress
The field of psychoneuroimmunology examines how the nervous system and immune system are connected, and how they work together to maintain homeostasis - the body's resting point. This integrated process involves several factors such as lifestyle, daily choices, nutrition, sleep, movement, stress level, immune system, and hormonal system. However, when the nervous system remains dysregulated due to prolonged stress, it can trigger physical symptoms and activate the immune system, leading to autoimmune disorders. Stress can also cause the release of hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, which can negatively affect the heart and blood vessels, causing high blood pressure and increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke. Additionally, stress can disrupt the natural rhythm of the gut, resulting in irritable bowel syndrome, increased sensitivity to acid, and changes in the composition and function of gut bacteria.
Stress can also affect your weight by increasing your appetite and causing you to crave energy-dense foods and carbs, leading to the accumulation of visceral fat that releases hormones and immune system chemicals that can increase your risk of developing chronic diseases.
Moreover, chronic stress can lead to acne, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, headaches, muscle tension, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and irritability.
Because stress has such a significant impact on our physical body, we can make a commitment to exploring how stressed our body is and then make a daily commitment to practicing ways to lower our body's stress response, decreasing our physical symptoms. Here are some simple ways to begin:
Exercise is one of the most effective ways to reduce stress. It helps to release endorphins, which are natural chemicals that make you feel good. Endorphins also act as natural painkillers, which can help to reduce any physical pain caused by stress.
Yoga is a great way to exercise, reduce your stress, and access your spirituality. A great way to start is by doing a 20-30 minute practice, five to six times per week. Choose practices that challenge the muscles and reach the point of fatigue or failure. Avoid too many forward folds to prevent low back pain, and incorporate exercises that strengthen the upper back and shoulders, such as pull-ups and resistant bands.
Here are some yoga practices we recommend:
Yoga For Calm
Yoga For Emotional Balance
Yoga For Self-Care
Taking a quick and or brisk walk for one or two minutes. You can walk around your block, house, or even your living room. This can help release the stress in your body and help your body return to homeostasis, decreasing the physical impact of stress.
Meditation is a mindfulness practice that involves focusing on the present moment. It can help to reduce stress by calming the mind and reducing negative thoughts. Regular meditation can also help to improve your sleep and boost your immune system. Here is a quick meditation to try:
This meditation is designed to help you reduce stress. Before we start, take a moment to pause and notice how you're feeling. Take three intentional breaths, focusing your attention on each inhale and exhale. This can help you shift into a calmer energy state and alleviate stress.
Gently close your eyes and take slower, deeper breaths, allowing your breathing to ground you and still you even further. Make yourself your first priority and focus on your well-being and self-care. If you get distracted, acknowledge the thought or sound and return your attention to your breath.
Call to mind a situation that brings you stress and observe it from a place of curiosity. Notice any judgments or stories that may be clouding your view and give yourself permission to let them go. Accept the situation as it is happening, even if you don't agree with it or approve of it.
3. Healthy Eating
Healthy eating is another effective way to reduce stress. Foods that are high in sugar and fat can lead to a spike in blood sugar levels, which can cause stress and anxiety. Instead, focus on eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
4. Time Management
Poor time management can be a significant source of stress. It can lead to deadlines, missed appointments, and feeling overwhelmed. To manage your time effectively, try using a calendar or planner to schedule your tasks and prioritize them based on importance.
5. Relaxation Techniques
Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, or massage can help to reduce stress and promote relaxation. These techniques can help to lower your heart rate and blood pressure, reduce muscle tension, and improve your overall well-being. Here are some techniques to try:
Breathing deeply activates our body's parasympathetic (calming) response, bringing us from a state of activation back into a state of homeostasis. Here are two simple breathing techniques we recommend:
1. The first technique is called box breathing or square breathing, which involves inhaling for four seconds, holding for four seconds, exhaling for four seconds, and holding again for four seconds. This technique is used in the military for special ops missions to help soldiers relax before high-stress situations.
2. The second technique involves pursed-lip breathing and belly breathing. In this technique, you inhale for four seconds using your diaphragm, then exhale for eight seconds through pursed lips, making a blowing noise.
Both techniques can be done for 4-5 sets to help you relax and alleviate stress. It's important not to overdo it and stop if you feel lightheaded. Practice these techniques regularly to help strengthen your lungs and relieve stress and anxiety.
Shift Your Attention to the Grounded Feeling of Your Feet
Practice shifting your attention to the grounded feeling of your feet on the ground. Taking your shoes off and feeling your heels upon the earth can help you feel more connected and grounded.
Stress can have a severe impact on your physical and mental health. While it is impossible to avoid stress completely, there are ways to manage it effectively. By incorporating these five techniques into your daily routine, you can reduce stress and take back control of your life!
Q: How can I tell if I am experiencing chronic stress and how does that impact my health?
A: Chronic stress can cause a range of physical and emotional symptoms, including anxiety, depression, and fatigue. It’s also can keep our immune system activated, leading to autoimmune symptoms or disorders.
Q: Can exercise help with mental health issues?
A: Yes, exercise is an effective way to improve your mental health. It can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression and improve your overall well-being.
Q: How can I incorporate relaxation techniques into my daily routine
A: You can incorporate relaxation techniques into your daily routine by scheduling time for them, practicing mindfulness, or seeking out classes or workshops that teach these techniques.
Q: What is psychoneuroimmunology?
A: Psychoneuroimmunology is the study of the connection between our nervous system and our body's immune system.
Q: Can taking a quick walk help reduce stress?
A: Yes, taking a quick walk can help release stress from the body and bring it back to a state of peaceful homeostasis.
Q: How does cuddling with a pet or loved one help reduce stress?
A: The calm, balanced nervous system of someone else, even pets, can help bring our dysregulated nervous system back into a state of peaceful homeostasis.
Q: What are some other ways to manage stress levels?
A: Other ways to manage stress levels include exercise, meditation, healthy eating, time management, and relaxation techniques.