Stress is not just in your head. In fact, stress is physiological, affecting your entire body, making everything you do seem so much harder.
And stress can be caused by many factors: moving house, loss of a job, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or abuse suffered as a child…
When you are stressed, your body releases excess stress hormones including cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. In return, your stress response becomes imbalanced and shuts off. As a result, your immune system suffers and can trigger low-grade inflammation, blood pressure increases, asthma flare ups and frequent colds. Cuts don’t heal, skin looks flaky, you can’t sleep and you feel totally burnt out.
Stress can cause many health issues
Stress gradually increases and continues to slowly creep over you until you eventually crash and burn. Unfortunately, this is often at the expense of your health:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Sexual dysfunction
- Infertility and irregular cycles
- Frequent colds
- Insomnia and fatigue
- Trouble concentrating
- Memory loss
- Appetite changes
- Digestive problems
Some people are more vulnerable to stress than others
There are a few different factors which lead some of us to being more vulnerable to stress than others: you feel like you have no control; you’re not getting any predictive information; you feel you have no way out; you interpret things as getting worse; and you have no support system.
It is also thought that people of lower socioeconomic status are prone to becoming more stressed as they have less pleasure in their lives. People at the top of the social pyramid often feel a greater sense of control as they are used to calling the shots and have more of a social support network.
Positive emotions do help stress!
It’s true that laughter is the best medicine. Positive emotions such as happiness, hope and optimism prompt changes in your body’s cells, releasing ‘feel-good’ chemicals.
Although alcohol or drugs can create artificial happiness, the same endorphin and dopamine high can be achieved by healthy habits like exercise, laughing, hugging and kissing, sex or bonding with your child.
Regular stress management is essential for all of us
No matter what your stresses are, you need to find a way to release this stress. Some people will enjoy kickboxing, others enjoy a good cry, and some take up yoga. Find something that helps you get out your frustrations.
You create excess stress when you overthink or hold onto what you are feeling rather than letting it out. For example: you may want to punch back, but instead you hold your anger and stress by clenching your fist; you may want to say ‘no’ to someone but you say ‘yes’ while you strain your face to smile.
And while we often detach from the negative thoughts of stress, it still takes a physical hold on our bodies. Therefore, the stress we experience is not just in our minds, but in our entire bodies.
Recognise your stress and release it
The best thing you can do for your body when you’re at wits end is to get out of your head as soon as possible. Observe how your entire body is feeling, observe your breathing, get up and move, stretch your body out and ‘reboot’.
Remember that stress is not just in your mind and you can find solutions to your stress in your body. Listen to your body, get moving and see if this helps to reduce your stress and give you fresh, new ideas.