April is National Stress Awareness Month. Let’s talk about Stress!
Stress is the #1 Immune System Zapper
Small amounts of stress can motivate us to do our daily tasks in life, such as meeting deadlines, paying bills, and taking care of family life. But when you are feeling overwhelmed by insurmountable stress loads on a daily basis and your life feels out of control, stress can reek havoc on your immune system and send important hormones “out of wack”, thereby compounding physical and mental stress.
Our bodies know two responses – fight-or-flight and rest-and-restore. When we feel overwhelmed by stress and life in general, we put our body in a constant state of fight-or-flight response. Which in turn releases an abundance of stress hormones, having a cascading negative effect on our health.
Cortisol is the number one hormone the body uses to activate systems in the body to cope with extremely stressful situations. This triggers other responses in the body including adrenaline to move quickly, increase heart rate and blood pressure, and stimulate other organs in the body. Over long periods of time, excess cortisol can create problems like inflammation, chronic pain patterns, headaches, as well as suppressed immunity.
Prolonged high levels of stress (and cortisol) can cause:
Impaired cognitive performance
Suppressed thyroid function
Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
Decreased bone density
Decrease in muscle tissue
Higher blood pressure
Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences.
Change the Script
Can we stop our stress response? Yes!
We all know that lowering stress is not easy when life feels overwhelming. However, there are many proven health techniques to reduce our body’s response to stress. Making a daily practice using one or more of these exercises and activities will make a huge difference and melt away the overwhelm. Our actions have a direct impact on our state of health and our nervous system function. Here are some simple techniques.
- 20-30 minutes of yoga and stretching
- 20-30 minutes of tai chi
- 3-30 minutes of meditation. *Try the above 3 minute breathing exercise. It’s amazing what 3 minutes can do!
- Spend time or talk with a loved one.
- Spend time in Nature. Put your bare feet on the ground, if possible.
Take a walk in a local garden or outdoor space
Locate an easy-to-get-to spot for yourself to go unwind, breathe, and relax from your day. Rebalance your hormone levels to rest and restore mode as you transition from work to home. Reset your neurological system and mind by taking deep breathes in your nose and out your mouth. This will have an immediate recharge response in your body.
Being still and listening to your inner response to a peaceful environment will help you feel more in balance with nature and yourself.
Walking, moving, stretching will release tension levels as well as increase circulation and keep us flexible with life’s demands.
Making Healthy Habits
Many of us feel finding time to De-Stress is stressful! This is counterproductive. Scheduling the time for ourselves or family to find time is mandatory to managing the effects of stress on our systems. Decreasing screen time on tv, computers, and phones is one way to free up time to our day to spend on healthier activities for our body, minds, and spirits.
Are you willing to take this challenge to finding 30 minutes a day to unwind and relax?
Learning to respond to stress differently can be fun when we apply these techniques to our daily activities. Try to make a concentrated effort for the next 30 days to feel the benefits of a less stressful mind and body. Creating new habits can feel like work, however taking these steps will alter how your body responds and open up new creative channels in our brains and neurological functions.
Helen Leonard, HealthRelativity.com