Did you know that stress is actually an important part of human evolution, and it helped our ancestors survive? The release of adrenaline brought about by an impending attack from a large carnivorous animal, for example, helped our ancestors prepare for fight or flight, and this kind of stress still benefits us today. But the continuous stressors of the modern world have brought about continuous stressors our bodies weren’t made to respond to.
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Eustress vs. Distress
Remember, not all stress is bad, and everyone has unique tolerance to various stressors. The key is to know your own tolerance by knowing the negative signs that stress has reached its tipping point for you.
Eustress is “good stress.”
Distress is “bad stress.”
Types of Stress
Acute Stress is short-term stress brought about by specific events you must react to. It can be a helpful, motivational force and it can be thrilling in small doses (eustress), but too much is exhausting (distress). Examples of acute stressors:
- Riding a roller coaster
- Taking a test
- Dodging a car accident
- Asking for a raise
Chronic stress is long-term distress caused by repeated stressors. Chronic stress can become such a routine part of life that sufferers stop noticing it and accept it as normal. Examples of chronic stressors:
- An overly demanding job
- An unhappy home life
- Prolonged financial problems
- Difficulty in school
43% of adults in the U.S. suffer adverse health effects caused by stress.
75% to 90% of all doctor visits involve stress-related disorders and complains.
Stress costs Americans over $300 billion annually in medical bills and lost productivity.
The Effects of Chronic Stress
Without any relief or relaxation, can lead to:
- Upset stomach
- Chest pains
- Increased blood pressure
- Sleep loss
Increases the risk of:
- Heart disease by 40%
- Heart attack by 25%
- Stroke by 50%
Can reduce your brain’s grey matter, literally shrinking your brain!
Causes muscle tension as a reflex reaction to guard the body against potential pain and injury.
Forces muscles to be in a constant state of tension, leading to various issues. For example, migraines and tension headaches are associated with chronic tension in the:
The Relaxation Response
The relaxation response is a state of deep rest designed to change your physical and emotional responses to stress.
The response can reduce stress and counteract effects of stress, like:
Studies show that the relaxation response also alters genes involved in:
- Immune function
- Insulin secretion
- Energy metabolism
While also suppressing pathways that control the activation of the protein that plays a role in:
The Benefits of Relaxation
- Lowers blood pressure
- Slows your breathing rate
- Increases blood flow to muscles
- Reduces muscle tension
- Improves mood and concentration
- Reduces fatigue
- Boosts confidence
- Boosts memory
Methods to De-Stress
1. Meditation – Elicits the relaxation response and strengthens your mind against stress
- Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
- Focus your attention on a positive mantra, either spoken out loud or thought silently.
- Sync your breathing with your mantra.
- Ignore any distracting thoughts.
2. Deep breathing – Slows heart rate and lowers blood pressure
- Sit up straight with your eyes closed.
- Place your hand on your stomach.
- Inhale through your nose, breathing from your diaphragm, not your chest. You should feel your stomach inflate.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth.
3. Decompress and reduce muscle tension
- Try a zero-gravity chair, which distribute a person’s weight across the chair in a reclined position, leading to feelings of weightlessness.
- Place a warm heat wrap around your neck and shoulders, relaxing the muscles in your face, neck, chest, and back.
- Use a foam roller or tennis ball to massage away your tense muscles.
4. Get active
- Exercise releases feel-good chemicals and helps your body work out the stress.
- Yoga, taking a few flights of stairs, and stretching exercises all ease tension and anxiety.
5. Hearty laughter
- Laughter lowers cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, while boosting endorphins.
- Laughing also stimulates circulation and relaxes muscles.
- In the long term, laughter improves your immune system, relieves pain, and increases personal satisfaction.
6. Be grateful
- Being grateful for what you have cancels out negative thoughts.
- Keep a gratitude journal to list out everything that you’re grateful for in your life.
- Celebrate accomplishments and savor good experiences.