The funny thing about stress is that it doesn’t affect just one part of us, but our entire body as a whole. This stress can originate from anywhere and, as a basic explanation, is your body’s reaction to situations that can be perceived as potentially dangerous. In order to live a healthier and happier life, it is extremely important to take control of the stressors in our lives.
The Body's Response to Stress
Our body responds to stress by altering the amount of certain hormones and chemicals that are released within our body. In moderation, these hormones can help save your life, but for prolonged periods of time, they can have seriously detrimental effects. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone released, inhibits normal function to prioritize the “fight or flight” response. Specifically, it alters the immune system response and suppresses the digestive tract, reproductive system and growth processes. This leaves the immune system fatigued and leaves you more prone to illness. Suppressing the digestive tract can leave you feeling constipated and ill. Furthermore, cortisol is likely to have you craving unhealthy, fatty carbohydrates.
This constant stress creates a domino effect in your body and can lead to:
- heart disease
- sleep problems
- digestive problems
- memory impairment
- Worsening of skin problems
So how do we manage the stressors in our lives?
1. Get Active
As far as lifestyle remedies, go exercise! Exercise is the best way to reduce stress and cortisol levels. This is especially attractive now that summer is upon us and the warm weather beckons us outdoors. Some fresh air, a change of scenery, and physical activity
2. Eat Healthy
Eating a healthy diet, packed with fruits and vegetables, fiber rich foods, and clean proteins can nourish your body and better prepare you to cope with stress and its effects on the body. Foods high in caffeine and sugar only keep you energized for a short period of time and can leave you feeling tired and moody after you crash.
3. Take breaks throughout the day
You can’t always avoid stressors, especially they are part of your daily routine. But what you can do is make time for breaks in your work or day. Taking breaks, even short ones, can help keep your mind fresh, and de-stress from the work you are facing. Think of these breaks as mini vacations from your daily grind.
4. Take time to breathe
Sometimes, relieving stress is as easy as breathing deeply and trying to slow down you heart rate. Deep breaths can help calm the nerves and combat the “fight or flight” response happening in your body as you stress. Breathing deeply sends a message to the brain notifying it to chill out, reducing blood pressure, slowing down breathing, and lowering the heart rate.
5. Take a vacation
While eliminating stress completely is probably impossible for most of us, taking a vacation could eliminate stressors for a period of time. Sometimes a break from what is stressing is out, and use the time to relax and recharge. With stress, out of sight really can be out of mind!
5. Organize your day
Many people get stressed or overwhelmed by the amount of tasks they need to have completed in a day. Being able to manage your time efficiently can minimize the effect that this stress has on you. Scheduling your work day, and dedicating specific time to each task can help you get more done throughout the day without feeling as though you wasted too much time on any one thing.
If you have a lot of tasks to be completed after work – try to schedule these for specific time slots as well, and try to keep on target. With this in mind, be realistic with the amount you can get done in a day. Do not overwhelm yourself, because you are setting yourself up for failure. Know when to say “no” to new projects or responsibilities; by the same token, know when to delegate responsibilities to others.
7. Do something that makes you happy
Whether you enjoy reading, being outside, hanging out with friends, shopping, or cooking – try to do something that makes you happy every day. This creates positivity and eases stress and anxiety. By the same token, you are usually relaxed when doing something you enjoy, this relaxation in turn acts to combat the stress you go through throughout the day. And remember, happiness is contagious. The better you feel, the better environment you make for those around you!