You forgot to pick up the dry cleaning. You left the stove on when you left the house. You completely forgot about a coming occasion and now triple-booked yourself! What do all of these things have in common? They all produce stress.
These are just some examples, among a slew of others, which can send our bodies into overdrive. They can make our heart race, our hands sweat and even raise the tone of our voice.
While these may seem like temporary stressors, they are leaving a mark on your health. And if you encounter stress daily, you’re allowing stress to make a permanent indent to your overall health. Finding effective ways to manage stress are more important than you may realize.
In this day and age, many of us are suffering from chronic stress where we deal with threats every day and so our bodies react to protect us. And without proper stress management and relief, we’re setting ourselves up for serious health consequences.
Chronic stress: How to know if you are suffering from chronic stress
We all face daily stressors, but how can you know for sure if you have chronic stress? Well, by recognizing the symptoms of chronic stress disorder as well as the causes and signs, you’ll have a better idea if you have chronic stress.
Chronic stress is the result of repeated exposure to stressful situations where your body releases stress hormones. Unlike acute stress, which is our body reacting to a specific situation, chronic stress can cause serious damage to our mind and body. With chronic stress our bodies tend to remain in a stressful state keeping us at high alert or in the “fight or flight” state.
Chronic stress symptoms include increases in heart rate, blood sugar and blood pressure, and a decrease in our immune system.
Genetics and life experiences may affect your ability to deal with stress and because we are all different your chronic stressors may be quite different than someone else’s. Where acute stress stressors are sudden, common causes of chronic stress include:
- Ongoing pressure at work
- Long-term relationship problems
- Ongoing financial worries.
As you can see, chronic stress is caused by stressors which occur over time, unlike the sudden attack of acute stress.
Chronic stress health risks
So what effects can stress have on the body? Well, for starters, chronic stress has been linked to…
- Chest pains
- Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
- Skin problems
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Memory and focus impairments
- Digestive problems.
This is hard on the nervous system, whose job is to normalize the body once the stressor is gone. If this does not occur, or the stress continues, it can lead to health risks such as migraines, exhaustion and even insomnia.
The cardiovascular system also takes a heavy hit when it comes to chronic stress. Elevated blood pressure and blood sugar levels can cause damage to the arteries. Heart rates speed up and over time this can very well overwork your heart, increasing your risk of heart attack.
In regard to the digestive system, chronic stress will have you feeling more heartburn and indigestion. Additionally, stress affects food within the body so you can also experience diarrhea and constipation.
Lastly, chronic stress can cause muscle tension which can increase risk of injury when you perform even simple tasks. So as you can see, chronic stress can have serious effects on the body and the longer you experience stress, the worse the symptoms and illnesses can be.
Chronic stress: 3 stress management techniques
Stress is bad, acute or chronic, but unfortunately you can’t avoid it altogether. Instead, you need to find simple and effective coping mechanisms to manage your stress successfully. These 3 stress management techniques will help you calm down and feel a little more stress-free. In turn, you may experience better health as well.
Herbal and natural remedies
One means of managing stress is through herbal and natural remedies. Here are some herbs which can help you ease stress:
Lavender: Not just a pretty flower but also a great herb to help you manage your stress. In a Greek study, patients sat in a dentist waiting room scented with lavender. These individuals were less anxious about their visit.
Blue vervain: Almost resembling lavender, blue vervain was quite common in ancient civilizations. By steeping some in tea, you can reap such benefits like better sleep, reduction in stress and enhanced mood.
Wood betony: If you’re looking to reduce headaches caused by stress, as well as promote brain clarity, reach for wood betony. It may help with clearer thinking and ease stress.
Relaxation and other alternative techniques
Besides herbs, relation and alternative techniques can help reduce stress and deter its effects on the body.
Yoga breathing: Breathing is an effective means of reducing and minimizing stress. One technique is called 4-7-8. It works by first exhaling all your breath, then breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven seconds and release for eight seconds. Concentrating on your breathing creates a focus and calms down your anxiety.
Maintain a positive attitude: Making a conscious effort to replace negative thoughts and feelings with positive ones is an excellent way to reduce stress.
Laugh: Laughing can produce feel-good hormones and in turn combat stress. Watching a funny video, hearing a joke or looking at humorous images will distract you from the stressful situation and promote happier feelings.
There are things you can do in your life which can help you be more successful at managing stress.
Exercise: Studies show it takes a minimum of 21 minutes of exercise before anxiety-reducing effects can occur. Go for a job, play a sport or lift some weights – anything in your capability – to reduce stress.
Change your diet: Diet plays a large role in how we feel. Not only can food fuel our stress, but it can ease it as well. Enjoying a diet of leafy greens, fruits and vegetables and omega-3s found in salmon can help you feel less stress. On the flipside, steer clear of fried, processed and high-sugar foods.
Talk to someone: Whether a family member, friend or even a therapist, sometimes a good way to reduce stress is to talk to someone. So if you’ve been keeping your stress bottled up inside it may be time to find a confidant to confide in.
Living life stress-free
As you can see, stress can have many effects on your body leading you down a path of poor health. Don’t let stress get the best of you! Adopt some of these management techniques to help you feel better. From herbs, to relaxation and even easy lifestyle changes, you can have your stress under control and find relief.
As we’ve mentioned, there is a difference between acute stress and chronic stress – if you’re experiencing the latter then it’s time to really get to the underlying reason behind your stress. Is it time to look for another job? How can you make more money? Is it time to lose that extra weight?
Whatever the cause of your chronic stress is, it really isn’t worth it when you look at how negatively it can impact your health in the long-run. It’s time to make some changes for the better.
Feeling more than a little anxious these days? You’re not alone. The faster life gets, often the more intense we experience the ups and downs. There’s less of an emphasis on relaxing and enjoying the simple things. Modern life is much more focused on doing and achieving, ticking all the things we can off the to-do list each day and planning for the next.
When you are stressed, your body interprets it as an emergency situation. And it will prepare itself to tackle the emergency. The problem is, as there are no high blood pressure symptoms, you may not even know that these changes are taking place inside your body.