Stress, both mental and physical, can be one of the most common causes to a condition because it takes such a toll on the body. The pressure at work, long hours, feeling secluded, relationships, sickness, worry, lack of sleep, retirement, bereavement, moving and so on can all add stress to our daily lives. It has been found that the majority of people even worry about their stress levels. People, however, can go on day to day without knowing they are stress because they get used to it and it becomes a way of life. This “normal” state can cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and even blood flow to the muscles.
This unrest feeling can be known as our fight or flight reaction being constantly triggered. It used to be trigger by real life threatening situations, but nowadays people experience it in fear of losing a job or being rejected by a group of people. This constant fear or stress creates harm to your health and opens up the possibility of contracting other harmful conditions.
How the Body Handles Stress
When you are stressing your pituitary gland releases a hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone or ACTH, which triggers an alarm in your brain. It tells the adrenal glands above your kidneys to release stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream. This sudden flood of hormones causes a chemical reaction in the body raising your heart rate and blood pressure and shutting down your digestive system. The rise in heart rate and blood pressure can even lead to heart attacks and strokes.
Normally after the stress situation is resolved the body goes back to normal, but with too many people these days this is not the case. This constant feeling of stress over the long term can drastically reduce the function of the body’s processes. Headaches and upset stomach are common results of this constant stress due to the constant flood of hormones.
With chronic stress, the effectiveness of your immune system can be drastically reduced leaving you more susceptible to illness. The immune system will try to combat these symptoms by releasing substances that cause inflammation. When this is constantly happening degenerative diseases can arise creating more problems.
Along with reducing the effectiveness of the immune system stress takes a large toll on the nervous system causing anxiety, panic attacks, depression and even dementia due to the chronic release of cortisol damaging certain areas of the brain. Sex drive and sleep patterns can be interrupted as well.
Other common signs of stress can be insomnia, back pain, constipation, shortness of breath, stiff neck, shortness of breath, fatigue, weight gain or loss, upset stomach, and problems in relationships.
How to Deal With Stress
There are many precautions that one can take to try to live a much less stressful life because let’s face it avoiding stress these days is almost impossible. But with these suggestions it can be a little easier.
Relaxed Breathing – Controlling your breathing is one of the simplest things that you can do to help reduce stress. Taking long deep breaths will help keep the body calm so that undue stress doesn’t build. Performing the below breathing technique two times a day, every day, or when you feel tense will help keep stress levels low:
- Close your mouth, relax your shoulders, inhale deeply and slowly through the nose and count to six, allowing your lungs to completely fill.
- Hold your breath as you count to four.
- Exhale through the mouth as you count to six.
- Repeat this process three to five times.
Progression Muscle Relaxation – This will take you through a progression to help relax the muscles. Find a low lit area that you will be uninterrupted in, as well as put on clothing that is comfortable. Follow down the list and tense each muscle for five seconds and then relax it for 30 seconds twice before moving to the next area.
- Upper Face – Raise your eyebrows, feeling tension in the forehead and scalp.
- Central Face – Squint your eyes, wrinkle your nose and mouth, feeling tension.
- Lower Face – Clench your teeth and pull back the corners of your mouth, showing your teeth.
- Neck – Lower your chin to your chest, feeling it pull at the back of your neck.
- Shoulders – Raise your shoulders up, feeling tension in the shoulders, head, neck and upper back.
- Upper Arms – Pull your arms back, pressing your elbows into your sides. Try to keep your lower arms relaxed and feel the tension in your upper arms, shoulders and back.
- Forearms and Hands – Make your fists tight and put tension in your wrists. Feel the tension in your hands and forearms.
- Chest, Shoulders, and Upper Back – Pull your shoulders backward and try to make your shoulder blades touch.
- Abdomen – Tighten your abdomen muscles as you suck in your stomach until you feel tension.
- Thighs – Squeeze your knees together as you lift them off the floor feeling tension in your thighs.
- Lower Legs – Lift your legs toward the ceiling while flexing your toes back to your body feeling tension in your calves.
- Feet – Turn your feet into each other as you flex your toes back while spreading them out.
Overall this progression should take about ten minutes and relief should be felt all over the body.
Calming Sounds – Listening to calming soft music can help lower your heart rate and release tension throughout the body. Meditation music where an instructor takes you through progression can be very beneficial if you have a hard time doing it on your own. As little as ten minutes of listening can help bring the body back to a natural balance for lower levels of stress.
Exercise – Sometimes a huge release of energy through physical activity can be the greatest way to relieve stress and tension. The release of endorphins helps lift one’s mood afterward allowing a feeling of calm. Exercise not only can relieve stress but it is hugely beneficial to your overall health and can improve daily mood, concentration, and sleep. Those who exercise experience less illness, pain and just improves your overall quality of life no matter what age you are.
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