In today’s fast-paced world, chronic stress is common, but your mind and body can pay a high price. In this blogpost, we share what can cause overwhelming stress - and what you can do about it.
What is stress?
Many of us can identify the triggers and the factors that cause our nervous system to go into stress response; your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens and your senses become sharper. These are all physical changes preparing you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand.
Our nervous system isn’t very good at distinguishing between emotional and physical threats. If you’re super stressed over an argument with a friend, a work deadline, or a mountain of bills, your body can react just as strongly as if you’re facing a true life-or-death situation.
If you get stressed out frequently, which a lot of us do in today’s world, your body may stay in a heightened state of stress most of the time. Now, we know that long-term stress, chronic stress, is detrimental to our health but pin-pointing down all the contributing factors isn’t easy, we might not even be aware of many of them. The dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can start to creep up on you and you don’t notice how much it’s affecting you. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the common warning signs and symptoms of stress overload.
Causes of stress
We usually think as stress as being negative, such as an exhausting work schedule or a rocky relationship. However, anything that puts high demands on you can be stressful. This includes positive events such as receiving a promotion, an active social life, exercise or buying a house.
What causes stress depends on your perception of it. Something that’s stressful to you may not face someone else; they may even enjoy it. While some of us are terrified of getting up in front of people to perform or speak, for example, others live for the spotlight. Where one person thrives under pressure and performs best in the face of a tight deadline, another will shut down when work demands escalate. And while you may enjoy helping to care for your elderly parents, your siblings may find the demands of caretaking overwhelming and stressful.
The effects of chronic stress
What is important to understand how we stress affects us in these different ways and how our nervous system responds. In small doses, stress has a lot of advantages. It can help us meet daily challenges and accomplish tasks more efficiently. And it’s a warning system to avoid physical stressful situations, like jumping away from a moving car - and be safe.
But the more your emergency stress system is activated, the easier it becomes to trigger, making it harder to shut off and leading to chronic stress. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body can lead to serious health problems. It can suppress your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive systems, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process. It can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
Improving your ability to handle stress
Here are the key fundamentals that you should be focusing on to help your body and mind be more resilient to stress.
Get your rest. Feeling tired can increase stress by causing you to think irrationally. At the same time, chronic stress can disrupt your sleep. Practice your sleep hygiene to feel less stressed and prepare yourself for the best way for going to bed.
Connect to others. Interaction with others can help trigger hormones that relieve stress and help calm and soothe your nervous system. Even just a brief exchange of kind words or a friendly look from another human being can help calm and soothe your nervous system. So, spend time with people who improve your mood and don’t let your responsibilities keep you from having a social life.
Learn to relax. You can’t completely eliminate stress from your life, but you can control how much it affects you. So find what makes you relaxed, whether that is meditation, reading a book, or going for a walk.
Eat a healthy diet. Food is medicine and it starts in the gut. The food you eat can improve or worsen your mood and affect your ability to cope with life’s stressors. Avoid eating processed food, refined carbohydrates, and sugar as they can worsen the symptoms of stress and your gut health. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables, high-quality proteins and omega-3 fatty acids, can help you better cope with life’s ups and downs.
Get moving. Regular movement can lift your mood and as a distraction from worries. It’s not so much about the intensity but about the frequency. Get moving for at least 30 minutes a day- take a walk, dance or go for a bike ride.
Knowledge is power
The more you know about a stressful situation, including how long it will last and what to expect, the easier it is to manage the stress.
Knowing what triggers your stress and how your emergency system reacts will help you gain a better understanding of how to manage stress and aid recovery.
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At Flippin Minds we use innovative technology and science-backed tools that help our clients get the full picture of their current stress load and recovery visibly and powerfully , motivating our clients to make better lifestyle choices.
Our wellness programs are optimised and designed around your individual needs. If you want to create a sustainable lifestyle and improve your health and well-being, we would love to hear from you. Click here to get in contact with us.