We know we FEEL it but what is stress?
Dr. Hans Selye, who first noted and described the concept of stress as:
“the non-specific response of the body to any demand made upon it.” Stress is neither good nor bad. The effect of the stress is not determined by the stress itself, rather it is determined by how we handle the stress.
Effects of Stress
1. “Emergency Response” This happens when people believe they are in physical or mortal danger. Pupils dilate, blood pressure increases, and the production of stress hormones increase. The body prepares within seconds to respond, which is known as the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome. The adrenal glands pour out adrenaline. This is a healthy, response to immediate danger but if continually activated, this emergency response may cause a higher-than-normal level of hormone production that can eventually cause physical wear-and-tear on the body. Health problems related to this constant high level of response include hypertension, headaches, ulcers, heart disease, and increased vulnerability to diabetes and colitis.
2. “General Adaptation Syndrome” In studies, Selye came to believe that diseases of adaptation such as hypertension could be produced by abnormal or excessive reaction to stress. The body would increase its supply of hormones in order to be ready for action to stress. Over a prolonged period of time, excessive stress leads to distress and the accompanying physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health problems. Contributing factors to distress include
- a) your attitude towards life and
- b) your mood (optimistic or pessimistic).
Both help to create the atmosphere that assists your defence system in repairing small wounds, bruises, and infections. This is also the system that tries to destroy strange cells such as those of cancer, including leukaemia. In mastering stress, you have to figure out what you are doing that contributes to your problem/challenge and change it.
The four categories of change include: change your behaviour, change your thinking, change your lifestyle choices, and/or change the situations you are in. Symptoms of overstress include fatigue, aches and pains, anxiety, problems sleeping, depression, and lack of joy in your life. This may just start by you turning off the news or getting of social media for a while.
So what can we do about it?
The Living Firme team leads wellness classes all over the country and a lot of the tools we share are practical steps to manage stress and create balance. Here are some easy tips you can follow to reduce stress:
- Make your life regular like ‘clock work.’ Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.
- Give yourself a break today.
- Say ‘No’ more often when other people want your time. This includes social engagements, the family dinner on Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.
- Postpone making any changes in your living environment if you have been coping with undue stress. Change of any kind is stressful and limiting it until later is a good strategy if you are under a lot of pressure.
- Reduce the number of hours you spend at work or school. If you are a work-a-holic or school-a-holic you need to reduce the energy drain on your body. TAKE SOME TIME OFF.
- Nutritional eating habits and eating small meals helps to keep your blood sugar stabilised. Many people reach for something high in sugar content when feeling stressed which compounds the problem. You may not want to hear this but… Drink more water and eat more vegetables!
- Rest your mind, as mind activities alleviate stress. These mind activities include reading, working on a craft, listening to music, playing a musical instrument, meditation, self-relaxation, dancing, and biofeedback.
- Have a worry time if you must worry. When you find yourself worrying over a problem, set aside a time (I suggest to my students 7:30pm on Tuesday night) and then put off worrying until that time. Chances are you will not even remember what you were stressing yourself about.
- Book time for yourself. In your daily or weekly schedule book time first for yourself and then the other activities you are involved in. Don’t let anything, except an emergency, usurp your commitment to yourself.
- Have a massage or another form of self-care activity. This doesn’t have to be expensive. Try practicing on your partner or try checking out some videos on self massage!
Minimizing stress in these ways is an adjustment for some of us. We are not used to making time for ourselves. But these simple tips may ultimately help you add years to your life!