Stress is probably one of the most commonly experienced emotions in today’s society and yet most of us are still struggling to find an effective way to combat the daily pressures of modern living. The problem is that stress can take a terrible toll on both your mind and body if not managed properly. Unmanaged stress has already been linked to health problems like, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity and insomnia not to mention loss of productivity, anxiety and depression. Here are some facts about stress and what you can do to combat it.
Acute vs. Chronic Stress
There are two main types of stress acute and chronic. Acute stress is a spur of the moment sensation brought about by something sudden and unexpected. This is a short term and immediate response like fight or flight and one usually quickly returns to normal.
Chronic stress on the other hand is a long term experience that haunts you all day and every day. This kind of stress is usually brought about by ongoing situations like financial woes or a job that makes you unhappy and it is this type of stress that causes the most harm to your health.
What Stress Does to Your Body
Chronic stress causes two separate but serious reactions:
The first reaction causes the symptoms that we are all familiar with; insomnia, aches and pains, clenched teeth, digestive upset, anxiety, behavioral changes like the appearance of addictive tendencies and avoidance.
Aside from the symptoms that we are aware of the body also has to deal with a flood of hormones that elevate the blood pressure and heart rate and affect digestion. When the body experiences a fight or flight moment the brain releases a rush of hormones like norepinephrine and cortisol. These hormones are supposed to help us act quickly when in a dangerous situation making the brain more alert and allowing the body to move more efficiently but when these hormones are being produced over a long term period they can have unhealthy consequences like high blood pressure, ulcers, digestive problems, compromised immune system, ulcers, fatigue, decreased libido and impotence.
Many people turn to unhealthy coping methods when it comes to handling stress such as overeating, drug or alcohol abuse, procrastinating or sleeping too much and while these will offer temporary relief in the long run they can do more harm than good. When it comes to handling chronic stress you can either change the situation you are in or change the way you react to it. If a situation causes you constant stress maybe it’s time for a career change or to drop a few things from your to-do list. If the situation can’t be changed try taking a few minutes to visualize a peaceful place or take deep breaths; acknowledge that your body is experiencing stress and focus on making your muscles relax. There is no magic cure for the stress that has become such a normal part of our everyday lives but becoming aware of it and making a conscious effort to avoid the worst of its effects can have lasting health benefits.