For those of you who know me well know that my pursuit of balance and wellbeing is always a priority, and stress is usually the main culprit when I can’t find any other explanation to what I’m feeling (usually anxiety or some form of pain).
If I’m out of balance I look at the very basics; am I eating properly, sleeping enough, spending time outdoors, exercising enough? If I can tick off those basic daily needs, then I check my stress levels.
I’m not often stressed, I always make it a point to put time aside in between everything I do, just so I know that there’s time to recharge. But sometimes stress comes from worrying, and that’s another type of stress compared to busy weekdays, work and chores – but stress nonetheless.
In whatever way stress is present, it’s so important to understand that it needs to be taken care of – it needs to be taken seriously. Prolonged negative stress leads to disease, there’s no other way of looking at it.
Small amounts of stress is normal, it’s our innate instinct to go into fight-or-flight mode whenever we sense fear. That particular state of being actually protects us from dangerous situations because the body becomes more alert, with cortisol and adrenalin kicking in. The body is physically and mentally prepared to defend itself from any form of danger. Once we are out of danger, the body and mind should go back to ‘rest mode’ (our normal relaxed state of being).
How much stress can we handle?
The problem nowadays however, is that we put our body in fight-or-flight mode too often. More than we can actually handle. I’ll give you an example. You drive your car to work in the morning. The car in front of you suddenly breaks. Your body reacts with cortisol and adrenalin, and you slam the breaks just in time to stop your car before hitting the one in front of you. As soon as you realise you’re safe, the body slowly goes back in rest mode, and your heart stops pounding. The problem is that once you arrive at work, you open your email just to find a nasty email from a colleague. This is not a dangerous situation per se, but your body will react as if you’re face to face with a hungry tiger – just by thought alone.
The way our mind and body is designed to react when faced with danger is not really in tune with today’s busy lifestyle. We have very few actual fight-or-flight situations on a daily basis, if any. But since we are able (unlike animals) to switch on the stress mode by thought alone, we allow our body to produce the stress hormones day after day. Basically, what used to be a stress situation before, like being chased by a wild animal, now comes in the shape of a fight with your spouse, unpaid bills or angry people in traffic.
Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. The more you allow stress, the easier the body turns on the stress hormones and it becomes a vicious circle.
Health problems caused by stress:
- Depression and anxiety
- Pain of any kind
- Sleep problems
- Weight problems
- Digestive problems
- Skin conditions, such as eczema
- Reproductive issues
- Thinking and memory problems
Try to distinguish Actual danger from situations where you Create the danger in your mind. Not easy, but worth thinking about, because you can become better at controlling it, and remain calm in upsetting situations.Thankfully there are ways to tackle some of our stress. Tell yourself that you are in charge, and not your thoughts or people around you.
Proven techniques to improve your general wellbeing:
“It makes sense that we should concentrate not merely on avoiding negative emotions, like fear and anger, but also on consciously cultivating heartfelt, positive emotions, such as gratitude, joy, excitement, enthusiasm, fascination, awe, inspiration, wonder, trust, appreciation, kindness, compassion, and empowerment, to give us every advantage in maximizing our health.”