Stress And The Body
Everyone experiences stress. Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension that comes from any event or thought that causes emotions such as frustration, anger, anxiety, or even joy and anticipation. Stress is your body's natural reaction to a challenge or demand and can be positive, such as when it helps you avoid danger or meet a deadline. However, prolonged stress has very negative effects on our bodies and overall health. Stress causes our body to move into the Sympathetic Nervous System, or “Fight or Flight” mode; our body responds by releasing hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine in order to react to the stressful stimulant. In turn, blood pressure and heart rate increase, which increases the risk of heart attack and/or stroke. Increased blood flow also causes inflammation, premature aging and inhibits and compromises our immune system. Because glucose is our body’s preferred source of energy, the liver begins to release more glucose into the body to support the body’s response to the stress, increasing blood sugar levels as well as our risk of developing diabetes.
In today’s world, it is simply a fact that we are all experiencing more stress, more often. In fact, with non-stop access to information and media, most of us probably spend the better part of our day in the “Fight or Flight” mode as we maneuver through, over and around the stress thrown at us throughout the day. Fortunately, we can take control of our bodies and reduce and reverse the effects of stress to our health with a few simple changes to our lifestyle.
Regular exercise- Walking, swimming, dancing, group fitness classes, yoga, resistance training, etc. Find an activity you enjoy and commit to doing it 3-5 times per week.
Daily meditation and mindfulness- Just five minutes a day of sitting quietly while focusing on breathing can have a huge impact on your overall well-being. Results are lower blood pressure and heart rate, improved memory and concentration, and less inflammation in the body.
Proper nutrition- Make sure you are getting a well balanced diet including 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies, whole grains and complex carbohydrates and quality sources of lean protein daily. Proper nutrition enables the body to stay regulated.
Healthy Relationships- Spend time with loved ones and actively cultivate existing and new friendships through community events, hobbies, church, group fitness classes, etc.
Help others by volunteering- The best way to improve your life is to help others improve theirs.
We cannot entirely eliminate stress from our lives, but we can change how we respond to stress.