When it comes to stress, people are either overly aware of it or totally in denial of it, but the reality is that in this modern, busy society it is no longer a question of whether you have stress in your life, but how much stress is in your life and how is it adversely affecting the quality of your life.
The “day to day stress” is very apparent if you take the time to listen to family or friends discussing their daily routines.
Stress seems to be such a standard topic of conversation; whether it be work stress, running around with children, health or financial related stress, stress just seems to be such a mutual part of everyone’s day to day life and as a result is socially considered to be the norm.
Despite the normality of this stress in our modern society, its essential that we are mindful that this stress, no matter how common it may be does impact on your body; physically and mentally. Furthermore it is absolutely essential that you do all you can to support your body to withstand the physiological impact which stress creates.
So what is stress and how does it affect your body physically?
Any type of stress creates a response in your body, commonly known as the “flight or fight” response, and depending on you as an individual there are varying degrees of the impact that this has on you. It’s important to note that not all stress is harmful; some can actually be beneficial to your body, stress increases your adaption to life and encourages physical and emotional growth. Stress only becomes a problem when it is constant or in excess, when the body fails to adapt or when recovery time is inadequate.
The “flight or fight” response is a normal physiologically process that occurs when your body perceive a threat, for instance being chased by an animal or more common these days the endless day to day family, work or financial stressors. The moment your body recognises the threat or stress, your sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is activated, once activated catecholamines (stress hormones) are released from your nerves and adrenal glands, corticotrophin is then secreted from the pituitary gland and cortisol is released from your adrenal cortex, once the threat or the stress has subsided your stress response system is deactivated and the stress chemicals return to normal levels.
This reaction in your body is a typical survival mechanism; it assists you to act quicker in response to a threat. This stress response is usually harmless, but when your body is under chronic repetitive long term stress, such as a constant stressful job, persistent family pressures , continual financial worries or a combination of all these, blood levels of these hormones become persistently high and eventually a maladaptive response occurs, whereby your stress system does not deactivate and is in a constant “hyper stressed’’ state, and ultimately your body becomes so bombarded with these unnecessarily high stress hormones that it becomes totally unresponsive to stress, this being the “adrenal exhaustion” state.
Some frequently experienced side effects of these abnormal stress states are; neurological imbalances such as anxiety, depression, and decreased memory function, mood swings, insomnia and chronic headaches. Some physiological consequences are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, irritable bowel syndrome and immune dysfunction or allergies. Hormonal imbalances may also occur such as a low libido, high blood glucose levels or insulin resistance, weight gain/ loss, amenorrhea/ dysmenorrhea or menorrhagia (where your menstruation skip months or become irregular, painful or heavy) and an exacerbation of any pre-existing conditions may arise.Even when the stressful event or threat has ceased the physiological effects of your internal stress response may persist until they are properly treated.
How can your lifestyle be conducive to reducing stress?
Firstly it is extremely important to reduce the amount of stress in your life, by ensuring that you don’t take on too much work or that you don’t give in to too many family pressures. We need to ensure we are living a balanced life. Some lifestyle techniques you may adopt to aid with reducing stress include; taking part in regular fun exercise, seek support from your family and friends when times get tough, set time aside to enjoy life and pursue any hobbies which bring you joy; i.e., gardening, painting reading or enjoying friendships.
It is also important that you take regular breaks from work to rejuvenate your soul and refresh your mind. You could take part in regular yoga or meditation classes, or find other ways to develop the more spiritual aspect of your life. Try not to let negative associates become overbearing, create reasonable boundaries with friends and family members who may be demanding, domineering or discouraging, this will ensure you receive adequate personal time to reflect and to be in a state of peace without any negative influences.