Does stress affect our health?
Everyone experiences stress.
What causes stress for one person may not bother another. Similarly, two individuals’ reactions to the same stressors can be very different. One may react by withdrawing, while the other may become agitated.
When we are under high levels of stress, the ability to think rationally and make good decisions literally flees!
Runaway stress overwhelms our mind and body. It gets in the way of our ability to accurately “read” a situation and actually “hear” what someone else is saying. In fact, it even gets in the way of our awareness of our own feelings and needs. Being able to manage and relieve stress allows us to stay balanced, focused, and in control regardless of what challenges we face.
Why our ability to manage stress is important
Stress symptoms may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. You may think illness is to blame for that nagging headache, frequent insomnia, low sex drive or your decreased productivity at work. Instead, stress may be the real culprit.
You can’t completely eliminate stress from your life, nor should you. Stress is, in fact, a good thing in small doses.
The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you.
Your body’s autonomic nervous system has a built-in stress response that causes biochemical changes to allow your body to combat stressful situations. This stress response, also known as the “fight or flight response,” is activated in case of an emergency.
However, this response can become chronically activated during prolonged periods of stress, which can cause both physical and emotional wear and tear on your body.
Healthy levels of stress help you perform under pressure, rise to meet challenges, and stay focused,energetic, and alert. However, too much stress stops being helpful and starts causing damage.
Out-of-control stress can impair your ability to:
• Think clearly and creatively
• Communicate clearly
• Accurately “read” other people
• Hear what someone is really saying
• Trust others
• Attend to your own needs
Common effects of stress
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have categorized some of the effects stress can have on your body and mind.
ON YOUR BODY –
- Headache/Stomach upset
- Muscle Tension or pain
- Chest pain
- Fatigue/Sleep problems
- Change in sex drive
ON YOUR MOOD –
- Lack of motivation or focus
- Irritability or anger
- Sadness or depression
ON YOUR BEHAVIOR –
- Overeating or undereating
- Angry outbursts
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Tobacco abuse
- Social withdrawal
You can probably identify with some of these symptoms of stress in your own life. Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can give you a jump on managing them.
Ignoring these red flags can contribute to chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
What Can We Do To Relieve Our Stress?
Step 1: Realize when you’re stressed. Seeing the warning signs is an essential first step to managing your stress levels.
Step 2: Recognize what stress feels like. Be aware of feeling drained, have a lack of concentrate or clear thinking, upset stomach, and trouble sleeping.
Step 3: Identify your stress response – do you get angry, shut down, withdraw, or freeze with anxiety?
If you get overexcited, agitated and keyed up, your best bet is to engage in activities that are calming and soothing like *Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) or focused breathing.
If you get under excited, frozen withdrawn, depressed or spaced out, then you need stimulating activities, such as exercise.
EFT helps reduce stress
Step 4: Discover what works for you.
The best way to reduce stress quickly and faithfully is through the senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Everyone responds differently to sensory input. Find things that are soothing to you.
Try different activities and learn what relaxes you. Use what you’ve learned to create calming, sensory rich environments at home, in your car, office and wherever you spend time. For example: in my office plants adorn the space and bring about a natural atmosphere of beauty and peace!
Step 5: Put your new insights to use.
Manage and relieve your stress by exposing yourself to sensory input that brings you back into balance. You’ve learned ways to comfort, soothe, and invigorate yourself. Use your new tactics to bring yourself back into balance when stress is getting too much to handle.
Here are some ideas for tactics for each sense and type of stress reaction.
Movement for quick stress relief –if you withdraw or space out
Run in place
Jump up and down
Rotate your head in circles, etc.
Sight for quick stress relief –If you are a visual person:
Decorate your home or office with cherished photos and favorite mementos
Surround yourself with colors that lift your spirits
Paint your walls with your favorite color, for example
Touch for quick stress relief – if you shutdown or withdraw:
Experiment with your sense of touch. Focus on things you can feel that are relaxing and renewing
Wrap yourself in a warm blanket.
Pet a dog or cat.
Hold a comforting object, such as a stuffed animal or a favorite memento.
Soak in a hot bath with ¼ cup of Epsom Salts added
Sound for quick stress relief
Are you sensitive to sounds and noises? Experiment with the following sounds, noting how quickly your stress levels drop
Listen to uplifting music.
Listen to the sounds of nature-crashing waves, the wind rustling the trees, birds singing.
Hang wind chimes near an open window.
Buy a small fountain, so you can enjoy the soothing sound of running water in your home or office. (You’ll hear the soothing water sounds in our office during your visit.)
Smell for quick stress relief
If you tend to zone out or freeze when stressed, surround yourself with smells that are energizing and invigorating. If you tend to become overly agitated under stress, look for scents that are comforting and calming.
Spritz on your favorite perfume or aftershave.
Lie down in sheets scented with lavender.
Breathe in the smell of freshly brewed coffee or tea.
Enjoy the clean, fresh air in the great outdoors.
(Our atmosphere is permeated with diffused essential oils for your health and pleasure!)
Taste for quick stress relief
Slowly savoring a favorite treat can be very relaxing, but mindless stress eating will only add to your stress-and your waistline. The key is to indulge your sense of taste mindfully and in moderation:
Indulge in a small piece of dark chocolate.
Sip a steaming cup of tea.
Enjoy a perfectly ripe piece of fruit.
Savor healthy, crunchy snack-try celery, carrots, or trail mix.
(In our office, we offer you gourmet coffees and teas containing ganoderma lucidum for balancing your energy and mood.)
Incorporate these stress-relieving skills into your life gradually until you have mastered the sensory tools you can depend on to help you through the toughest of situations.
In health, wealth, peace and joy,