Stress is a word that is thrown around a lot and it seems to be a pretty typical response for some of us when asked how we are doing. We are stressed! Everywhere we go, stressful situations can appear. Work is stressful, parenthood is stressful, driving is stressful,…even deciding where to eat dinner can be stressful. Stress is definitely necessary in certain situations because it triggers chemicals such as cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), and norepinephrine to be pumped throughout our body. These chemicals cause our heart to beat faster and our blood pressure and blood glucose levels to increase preparing us to run out of a burning building for example or to jump out of the way of a car headed right at us (fight or flight). This response is absolutely necessary for our survival HOWEVER our body cannot tell the difference between the burning building and the presentation that you may have to give in front of your entire company including all the top executives. Stress to our body is all the same and unfortunately when these stress chemicals are released as I will call them, they can have a negative effect on the body when they are produced frequently or chronically.
Being in a constant state of stress causes the valves in our heart to constantly be working overtime. This can change the way cells regenerate in the body. Mental fogginess, fatigue, high blood pressure, and depression are all signs that there is too much stress being put on the body. A weakened immune system is also very common in people who are constantly in high stress situations. This causes autoimmune diseases to flare up and can lead to frequent sickness.
The good news is there are a few ways that have been proven to counteract the way our body responds to stress. These include moderate exercise and meditation (large focus on deep breathing). Exercise raises the stress hormone levels in the body and actually causes the body to be more resistant to psychological stress. Set aside even just 30 minutes a day to go for a walk/jog or do a quick weight lifting or HIIT circuit. I know it can be difficult to exercise when you feel like you have no time (and the lack of time is causing you to be stressed) but I promise after a quick workout the serotonin and dopamine will be flowing through your body and you will feel SO much better. Before a new week begins, sit down and map out the days that you can squeeze in a workout. Maybe it’s not possible every day. Maybe you can only workout 2-3x a week and that is totally fine. If you plan the days ahead of time, it will reduce stress down the road because it will be a time you already set aside for yourself. Don’t like to go to the gym or run? Go for a bike ride outside or even just lay in the grass at a park, close your eyes and practice deep breathing. With each exhale, picture all negativity and dirty energy leaving your body. With each inhale, picture warm, white and yellow light coming into your body filling you with positivity. This simple technique can keep those “stress chemicals” at bay so they only show up when you really need them to.