Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of physical, emotional, or mental demand. It is a real or perceived threat to your mind and body which can wreak havoc both physically and mentally. When the body perceives stress, it commands the sympathetic nervous system to slow down. This results in increased hunger, decreased metabolism, and fat storage.
When your body perceives any kind of demand or threat –whether life threatening or not – it reacts as if you are actually in a life or death situation. It releases chemicals to give you added strength and energy to protect yourself. This is widely known as the “fight or flight” response. In the proper situation, this response can help your body meet challenges by staying more alert, energetic, and focused. However, if you experience the fight or flight response on a daily basis, the heightened stress can damage your quality of life by suppressing the immune system, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke, enhancing the aging process, and promoting mental and emotional issues.
In order to reduce the harmful effects of stress, it is important to recognize the signs of stress overload. Some of the major external causes of stress are work, school, relationship problems, financial issues, children, family, major life events/changes, and an overly busy schedule. Common internal causes of stress are pessimism, chronic worry, lack of flexibility, unrealistic expectations, and an all-or-nothing attitude.
Everyone tolerate stress differently. Stress management is dependent on many factors including the quality of your relationships, your life experiences, your genetics, and your emotional intelligence. Individuals with strong support networks of friends and family often deal with stress better than those who are lonely and isolated. People who have a sense of control and confidence seem to persevere through life’s challenges better than those who are all over the place. Those who are optimistic and capable of dealing with their emotions tend to manage their stress better than those who get overwhelmed easily and cannot calm and sooth themselves. Stressful situations are easier to cope with when a person is more knowledgeable and realistic about the specific event.
It is important to learn how to manage stress and cope with stressors. Many people cope by drinking too much, eating excessively, taking pills, or lashing out at others. This is unhealthy and unproductive. To take care of oneself, one must learn how to rest and relax. Exercise is extremely effective in managing stress. Additionally, yoga, meditation, prayer, hypnosis, saunas, steam baths, massage, acupuncture, and breathing techniques are all proven relaxation methods. It is also important to get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy diet. Some dietary changes to help alleviate stress are to avoid refined sugars, increase fiber intake, and increase omega 3 fatty acids. Supplements shown to decrease stress levels are B complex vitamins, magnesium, zinc, Vitamin C, Coenzyme Q10, lipoic acid, ginseng, licorice, rhodiola, and aswagandha.
Don’t let stress overwhelm you and take over your life. Learn to manage it so you can live every day with a glass half full attitude!