Stress is the body’s reaction to a perceived threat or danger, and according to studies, chronic stress is responsible for up to 90 per cent of all health problems.
Your stress reaction, often known as the fight or flight response, is how your body reacts. The adrenal glands produce cortisol and adrenaline which puts your body on high alert – the pupils dilate to allow more light and visual stimuli in, and the heart rate increases.
Breathing becomes shallow, blood is diverted to your extremities for rapid movement, and your digestive system shuts down.
When confronted by a lion or tiger, this works well in the short term but when our stress reaction does not shut down in our daily lives, we suffer chronic stress, leading to various health issues.
When we are worried about work, deadlines, tests, promotions, finances, house payments, or even what others think of us, our stress reaction kicks in.
You can be sure that your stress response is activated if you are concerned about how you seem, act, or appear to others. The stress reaction will kick in when life throws you curveballs or heaps one obstacle on top of another.
Anger is a significant stressor and can lead to heart attacks, arrhythmia, and even death. Fatigue, poor concentration and irritability are all symptoms of chronic stress.
According to studies, stress has been shown to influence our genes. It can turn on or off genetic elements that affect how much fat our bodies store, how quickly we age, and whether or not we develop cancer.
Chronic stress has been linked to poorer immunity, detrimental effects on memory and emotions, decreased bone density, and increased pain levels. Muscle tension, digestive and intestinal troubles, and breathing problems such as asthma or panic attacks, can all be stress-related.
Knowing that stress has a significant impact on your health, you need to learn how to manage it effectively. Here are some tried-and-true techniques to help you bust your stress levels:
Take some time for yourself. Although you may have a hectic schedule, you must make time for yourself. Downtime helps to re-energise, refresh and rejuvenate.
Eat Well. Eat lean red and white meats, oily fish, and healthy fats such as avocado, sesame and coconut oils. Enjoy nuts, seeds, and berries. Eating more green leafy and other vegetables will increase health and resilience and decrease stress.
Exercise. Moderate cardiovascular and aerobic exercise such as brisk walking for 30-40 minutes, four to five times a week will help de-stress. Cardiovascular and circulatory health, digestion and muscles will improve. “Happy” endorphins are released by walking.
Do something valuable. Your sense of self-worth will rise if you have a sense of purpose in life and can make a constructive or significant contribution to society. As you become more positive about yourself and your place in society, you will feel more valued and competent, improving your resiliency.
Take up a new interest. A hobby is a great way to have fun, engage your brain, experience flow, stay present, find meaning and fulfilment, and enjoy yourself. What interests you? Gardening, journaling, crafts or singing in a choir are all possibilities. Experiment with different activities until you find one that you enjoy.
Own a pet. A dog, cat, or goldfish can help you relax, feel less alone, and feel more connected. Stroking cats and dogs, as well as observing a tank of fish, can help you relax.
Surround yourself with positive people. Do some of your friends or family exhaust you? Remove yourself. It may sound harsh, but do yourself a favour and surround yourself only with positive, helpful, and encouraging individuals.
Naturopathy. A naturopath can assess you as a whole person. You can then be recommended the appropriate nutrition, supplements, vitamins and herbs.
Smile. When you raise the corners of your lips to form a smile, your brain is fooled into thinking you’re pleased, and it produces your “happiness hormones”. So, even if you don’t feel like it, smile. It will bring you joy and may even bring others joy at the same time. Smiling also helps release tension by relaxing the face muscles. Having a facial will remove tension that you hold in your face and head and bring about relaxation where you hold it the most.
Trudy Kither is a naturopath and owner of Nature’s Temple. Visit naturestemple.net