Stress – Friend or Foe?
What is Stress?
Our brains are wired to respond to situations in which we feel threatened. Prior to modernity, our threats may have come from an animal, another human, or a life-threatening or changing occurrence. While we encounter these situations infrequently nowadays, we experience a different kind of stress that is chronic in nature instead of situational.
When we’re faced with something we perceive as a danger, our hypothalamus, or a tiny area in our brain, reacts by sending signals to the adrenal glands. These tiny glands, which sit on top of the kidneys, are responsible for sending cortisol, the stress hormone, and adrenaline through our bodies. Those hormones cause our bodies to have greater energy, raise heart and respiration rates, and increase the amount of sugar available in the bloodstream. This response also changes the immune system and other functions like digestion, reproduction, and growth while also affecting your mood. All of these are important when you are in immediate danger. Long-term, these chemical responses are very damaging to your overall well-being.
What Does Long-Term Stress Do to Our Bodies?
This state of fight-or-flight is supposed to be temporary in order to help us protect ourselves from an imminent danger. When we stay in that state for long periods of time, our bodies react in a plethora of ways:
- Muscle pain and/or tension
- Suppressed immunity
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Sleep disturbances
- Depression or anxiety
In other words, stress experienced and not managed over a prolonged period of time makes us unhappy, unhealthy, and is unwise.
How to Manage this Beast?
There are many ways to manage stress:
- Good nutrition
- Saying no to things that don’t align with your needs
- A mindfulness practice like meditation
- Spending time in nature
All of these are valuable self-help tools that can decrease your stress levels. Seeking additional support through integrative wellness practices is another tool that can help you reclaim your life.
We Can Help!
Disclaimer: The information contained here was not written by a medical doctor and is intended for informational purposes only. This is not a substitute for medical advice.
Image credit: Envato Elements / Pro-stockstudio