Stress – we all know it and we all feel it. Some days are better than others. Yes, it is part of our daily life, but why has it become such a focus in recent years? How come we are all searching for stress busting techniques?
Did you know that the American Institute of Stress found that about 33 percent of people reported feeling extreme stress? And check this out:
- 77 percent of people experienced stress that affects their physical health
- 73 percent of people had stress that impacted their mental health
No wonder the World Health Organization called stress the “epidemic of the 21st century.” Plus, many research studies have shown that mismanaged or ignored stress can lead to serious issues.
Do you need to do some stress busting?
Signs and Symptoms of Stress
There are many signs and symptoms of stress. Often, we experience these symptoms clustered together. Frequently, they overlap because they are interrelated. According to the Global Organization for Stress, symptoms can be physical, emotional, psychological, and behavioural.
Physical symptoms can include:
- various pains
- muscle stiffness
- digestive issues
- blood pressure issues
- weight issues
- immune system imbalances leading to more colds, flu and infections.
Emotional symptoms you may notice include:
Psychologically you may notice:
- memory loss
- an increased inability to concentrate
- a racing mind
Stress can affect your behaviour too. You may notice yourself:
- drinking more alcohol
- arguing more
- isolating yourself from others
- developing nervous habits like nail biting
Stress and Your Hormones
To simplify it, consider stress as a physiological response that often feels emotional. Whether we are running around trying to meet all our obligations, or we are unhappy, frustrated, angry, nervous, or actually in real immediate danger, our body has the same reaction. Our adrenals are programmed to help protect us from physical danger. Therefore, they respond by releasing the hormone adrenaline to provide extra energy and strength. This is the “fight or flight response”.
Unfortunately, our body does not know the difference between physical danger, or striving to make a deadline, or just being super busy. The hormone cortisol increases during “fight or flight”. And this is the very hormone that can cause many of our health problems when it gets out of balance.
Normal cortisol levels are necessary. Cortisol is our “awake” hormone and allows us to function and be alert. But when we are stressed, our cortisol levels rise. Too much cortisol has been linked to many health concerns such as:
- heart disease
- weight gain
- and more
Why does it feel emotional?
The adrenal glands interact directly with the nervous system. When it is agitated it can make us feel moody, depressed, anxious, jittery, and fatigued, and can cause headaches. The adrenals also affect:
- the gastrointestinal system
- the circulatory system
- the respiratory system
- the immune system.
Seriously! The adrenals are connected to every activity in the body. Why? Because if you were in real physical danger, the adrenals need to be able to control every aspect of the body. This is how it prioritized functions to maximize your ability to defend yourself against a saber-toothed tiger – by either “fighting” or “fleeing”.
Here are 8 Stress Busting Strategies you can try NOW
1. Take a short break and get some fresh air. Taking a walk outside is a great way to do this.
2. Find tranquility by listening to classical music.
3. Reduce your screen time and shut it off completely at least 2 hours before bedtime. This will also help you to get a good night’s rest.
4. Exercise gives you a break, produces endorphins (helpful hormones in your brain) and can help you decompress.
5. Clear your mind by talking it out with a close friend or by journaling. Listening to and helping a close friend is also super beneficial because it focuses your energy away from your stresses and onto solutions.
6. Eat a well-balanced diet of fresh whole foods. Did you know that 95% of your serotonin (chemical linked to happiness) receptors are in your gut? Also cut back on caffeine. It can spur feelings of anxiousness and restlessness. Oh, and stay hydrated with 6 to 8 glasses of water a day.
7. Watch a comedy. Laughter can shrink stress responses and stimulate your heart, lungs and body muscles
8. Chew gum. Chewing gum can help reduce anxious or down feelings, fatigue, and put you in a better mood.