Stress is a very common occurrence in life. Everyone goes through stressful situations sometimes. However, if your body is in a constant state of stress (chronic), that may pose a problem.
This article explores what happens to your body when you are under stress and measures you can take to combat stress as soon as it starts.
What is stress?
Stress is a physical/mental response to an external cause, such as danger, emergencies, sickness, financial burdens, family strife, and worry; among other things.
Not all stress is bad. Eustress can help you perform at your peak performance. Eustress can inspire you to push yourself to greater heights. Unfortunately, our world is full of bad/negative stress, and there never seems to be a shortage of it.
The good news is that stress can come in cycles, meaning all the stress in the world doesn´t come at you all at once; but at different points. If you know the signs to look out for, you can overcome stress with healthy stress management strategies/techniques; so it can leave as quickly as it came.
How long can stress last?
Stress can be short-term, as in a one-time occurrence, or recurring, which can take a toll on your body and, if left unchecked, can open the door to many chronic illnesses.
How your body reacts to stressors
Your body initially reacts to stressors in signs such as breathing faster, your muscles tensing up (your body´s way of protecting you from possible injury), and your brain getting more oxygen. This is the fight or flight phase. Your body prepares and protects you from possible danger or injury. In short, your pulse quickens, and hormone levels skyrocket in your body.
Those life-saving reactions by your body can disturb your immune system, digestive, sleep, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems if stress is long-term. Because the body never receives a clear signal to return to normal functioning, it remains in a state of stress and this is not good for your health.
The good news is; that there are ways to combat and kick stress out of your body. Lifestyle changes can affect stress and eliminate it from your life if you so choose.
Signs and symptoms
Many symptoms indicate if you are going through a stressful situation:
- rapid heart rate
- inability to concentrate
- difficulty making decisions
- muscular aches and tightness
- hair loss
- increase in abdominal fat accumulation
- may increase inflammation
- may increase stroke
- increase the risk of chronic diseases
As soon as you feel stress coming on (rapid heartbeat), calm yourself down right away by breathing in slow deep breaths. Breathing techniques can be a tremendous help. This simple act can change the course of stress.
‘Laughter is good medicine!’This saying is very old, but could there be some truth to this? Laughter triggers healthy emotional and physical changes in your body.
It also boosts your immune system, decreases stress hormones, and increases the production of antibodies. Laughter is free and has no side effects. Laughter is indeed the best medicine.
Put on your favorite comedy sitcoms/movies or watch comedians rant and rave about current world issues. Even half an hour of this can change your mood. Scientists have seen the evidence of laughter and now endorse laughter therapy.
A healthy diet can help you weather the storm of stress. If you nourish your body with vegetables and fruits, and whole grains, and implement other healthier lifestyle changes, you help strengthen your immune system.
Exercise is an effective stress buster and offers a variety of mental and physical benefits.
You can´t live a positive life with a negative mindset. Many people exercise their bodies, but few exercise their minds. Worry, anxiety, and every evil lie starts there and should end there; you should control your thoughts and not let your thoughts control you.
The mind is negative by nature, and for every negative thought, you need five positive ones to combat this one negative thought.
Meditation is an ancient practice that is still beneficial today. There are many types of meditation. However, mindfulness and guided meditations can be the starting point for anyone from beginners to advanced. Meditation forces your mind to focus on one thing.
Journaling is the art of staying connected with your feelings. Feelings are temporary, and they communicate with you. They inform you of your emotions.
When you sit in a quiet place and write your thoughts down, the results may surprise you. Self-enrichment, empowerment, and reflection are evident when you acknowledge your feelings, see where you made your mistakes, and set goals to enrich yourself.
Vacations can be costly, but a mini-vacation to a neighboring town/s for a short stay may do you some good, it wouldn´t break the bank. A day trip to a hidden gem, camping, or staying at a B&B for a weekend could improve your mood.
Commit to a sleep routine
Sleep, there is nothing like a good night´s rest. Yet millions of people suffer from insomnia women in particular. It is important, to set up a nightly routine, and stick to it even on weekends. We have an article on this here.
Stress-management seminars offer valuable information and techniques. There are so many variables; you can choose; what works best for your personality.
Sometimes you simply need a break. Your mind and emotions may need serenity, and quiet. Wellness centers can offer that and much more.
Get help if you need it!
Too many times, people neglect themselves, sweep serious issues under the carpet, or are preoccupied with the opinion of others (what will people say). However, when it comes to your health and well-being, people´s opinions should be the least of your concerns.
If you need help, do not let pride step in your way. Get the help you need. A lot of problems can be avoided; if people get the help they need as soon as they need it, rather than later when it becomes a catastrophe and more challenging to manage!
Things to avoid
When stress creeps in, it is easy to want to curl up in your bed and throw the covers over your head, but this doesn´t solve any problems. Instead, it can make the situation even worse. Here´s a list of things to avoid at all costs.
It is easy to walk to the refrigerator and take a gallon of Ben & Jerry´s Cookie Dough ice cream, but that does not help your immune system. Over-eating, especially junk food like potato chips, cakes, candy, cookies, and popcorn, will do more harm to your body than good.
You may feel good the moment you eat these comfort foods, but they leave in their wake excess fat, sugars, and salt in your body, which may take months to get rid of and can leave behind the risk of chronic illness in its wings.
Many people think if they ignore a problem, it doesn´t exist. The mentality is to sweep everything under the carpet, and everything is okay. You can move on with your life now.
That is such a bad practice because the problem is still there, and nothing has been resolved. Doing nothing is very dangerous because; it can make the problem even worse, when all that was needed, in the first place, was swift action to nip a problem in the bud before it became a full-blown disaster.
Too many soft drinks
Soda tastes good, but let´s be honest, it is not the healthiest drink. Drinking too many soft drinks, especially daily, can cause havoc on your body and may even guarantee you a visit to the ER if you are not careful.
Many people pick up the habit of smoking when they are under stress, but smoking increases your risk of many health problems.
Refrain from negative thinking
Some people do not have hope or do not understand what it actually means. They think negative thoughts constantly, and when that´s what they get, they complain.
If you feed your mind a daily diet of negative thoughts, that´s exactly what you´ll get-negativity. There´s no need to be surprised because that occupied your mind the whole time. You got what you focused on.
If you have always tried negative thinking and are sick and tired of the results, try something new. Feed your mind with positive thoughts, start positive affirmations today, and the results may surprise you. If thinking negatively gives you negative results imagine what thinking positively could do for you.
Too much TV
Too much of anything is not good. If you are lying on the couch all day, eating junk food, and binging on TV shows, these are not the answers. They cause more harm than good in the long run.
Letting yourself fall into depression
Everyone at some point in their life will experience depression. The sun doesn´t shine every day, and the reality is that you won´t be on cloud 9 every single day.
When you feel your emotions or spirits are down, this is an indicator that depression wants to visit you. Do not welcome it in. For some people, music can be a great source of comfort.
Avoid isolating yourself from loved ones; this is the time to go on the attack, reach out to someone you trust, and do something together. There are many things you can do to prevent depression, and some of them are indulging in the simple pleasures of life, going out for a walk and some fresh air, and changing your thoughts to positive ones.
For others, depression may be more of a serious matter, and if that´s you, you need to talk to your doctor about medical treatment. There is no other way around it. Get the help you need and bounce back stronger than before.
Taking your frustrations out on others
This act is such a common human trait, but try to avoid it as much as you possibly can. Some people are so stressed; that they may want to kick a dog and slap a cat; if you feel like this, you need to take a time out and breathe.
Taking your frustrations out on family members, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and even strangers is like adding gasoline to the fire. Take some time to be alone and get yourself together; before starting needless wars with people.
Instead, put on some good walking shoes and take a walk in your neighborhood or a park. Fresh air will do you some good.
Going through your day aimlessly!
Your drive and high energy will be down in stressful circumstances. Don´t wander around aimlessly through your day. Here is when executing a plan will come in handy. Following a plan/schedule can help you overcome idleness.
Stress is inevitable, and it happens to everyone. No one is exempt. Not all stress is bad. Good stress or Eustress is the type of stress you feel when you are full of excitement. Eustress can keep you focused, alert, and at the top of your game. Bad stress can cause so much harm to your body if left unchecked.
Many people do not tackle bad stress as soon as it rears its ugly head, and just like a little infection that starts on your finger so innocent looking but if left uncared for can grow into a bacteria-laden infection, causing a much more sinister problem that could have been avoided at the onset.
You have the power to control stress and overcome any negative side effects from it. There are many things that you can do to protect your emotions, mind, and body from stress.
Choose activities and tools that match your personality and goals. Enrich your life by making healthy choices to master whatever hurdles may try to come your way.
Find out more information on building a strong immune system here.