Are you suffering from unhealthy stress?
Chronic stress is very pervasive in modern life. Often people suffering from stress do not realize that their symptoms are stress-related. Stress has the potential to disrupt any and all normal functions of the body and mind.
What causes stress?
The average American leads a very stressful life and confrontations of some sort are seemingly a minute-by-minute affair. We never get a break. When the body is constantly on alert, it cannot devote resources toward day-to-day repair and maintenance. Sleep is disrupted, digestion is compromised, and tissues begin breaking down. The link between stress and more serious conditions such as hypertension, autoimmune diseases, and atherosclerosis should be obvious.
Stress can be caused by a number of factors including:
- Financial issues
- Work environment
- Medical conditions
- Public speaking
- Busy schedules
- Death of a loved one
Two Modes of Your Body
For simplification, we can think of the body as having an “alert mode” and a “healing mode.” Classically, the “alert mode” would be induced by a confrontation or threat such as having a dog run out in front of your car. With a surge of adrenaline, pulse quickens, eyes become wide, breathing rate increases, and muscles tense. All resources of the body are directed toward dealing with that threat.
In alert mode, other general maintenance functions, such as digesting food, normal immune function, and daily maintenance and repair are placed on hold. Assuming the brakes work and the dog is fast, the threat passes, the mind relaxes, and the body goes back to its normal functions.
In the modern world, however, the perception of threat is around every corner. We never get a break from it. The body stays in alert mode continually, resulting in a weakening of the other functions of the body (such as digestion or immune function).
Tips for Managing Stress
Being overly stressed is a symptom of not having control of life’s situations, of other people’s behavior, of work schedules, and of time itself. Managing stress is a matter of regaining control. Having real control is ideal, but sometimes you have to settle for the perception of control. It’s a matter of letting go of the things that you have no control over and letting your intuition guide you through life. Letting go is the hardest part, but it is the key to making life comfortable.
- Take a deep breath. Breathing deeply is very relaxing. Monitor your breathing throughout the day and make a habit of taking long deep slow breaths. Just doing this will short-circuit the stress response. For those who are open to practicing yoga, it is one of the best ways of making deep breathing a habit.
- Break a sweat. Regular exercise is a great way to reverse the negative effects of stress. It is the quickest way to normalize stress hormones.
- Cultivate calmness. Calmness does not just happen, it must be cultivated like a garden. Look for moments during the day when you can clear your mind and enjoy just being alive.
- Be selective about worry. Most of the time when you worry it is a conscious choice done out of habit. Think of all the times that you worried about something when you really didn’t need to worry. The worry did not affect the outcome.
- Avoid the “what if?” trap. Make a pact with yourself to follow your intuition and go with the flow. Worrying about what might be around the corner only fuels anxiety and depression.
- Take naps during the day. Taking a nap normalizes stress hormones and takes your body out of alert mode. It resets everything back to zero. Even if you can’t go to sleep, just taking 10-20 minutes to turn your brain off can be beneficial. Taking short naps during the day also improves sleep at night.
- Make your world small. Cut out unnecessary stimulation from social media, TV, and other media sources, especially things that are upsetting or anxiety producing. What is happening around the world or even down the street is not necessary for you to know, unless it directly affects your well-being.
- Stay positive. A positive attitude will bring good things into your life. A negative attitude will do the opposite.
- Be proactive and don’t procrastinate. Avoiding stressors can sometimes allow them to get bigger. Make a habit of dealing with things head-on and moving forward.
- Accept that other people have a different destiny than yours. You can reach out a hand to others around you, but do not allow them to pull you under.
- Reach out. Do not isolate yourself. Find a friend or family member that you are comfortable talking with to explain what is causing you to feel stressed out. Talk about specific things you can do to reduce your stress (but be careful not to try and pull them under with you!).
- Find enjoyable hobbies or experiences. Treat yourself. Take some time to engage in activities or experiences that you enjoy.
- Have a long-range plan. If you are not happy with your present situation, make a plan to change it. Sometimes just having a plan in place provides stress relief.
- Take herbal therapy. Natural therapy can offer some protection against the negative effects of stress.
Natural Options for Stress Relief
Herbs can offer protection against the negative effects of stress. Certain herbs have the ability to restore balance and promote calmness. Herbs restore normal brain chemistry, instead of artificially altering brain chemistry to reduce symptoms (like some pharmaceuticals do). Herbs are generally considered safe for daily use.
*Statements on this page have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. For medical concerns, please consult a qualified healthcare provider.