A stress-free life is ... non-existent. And if you say you live one, you're either lying, delusional, or have an incredibly boring life. Which, that level of boredom would be stressful in itself!
Stress is a part of everyday life. A Without it we would never get off the couch, let alone making progress at work, exercising, keeping our kids in line, watch a football game... never mind utilizing our stress-responses for what they would have been used for hundreds of years ago (i.e hunting and running down a kill).
“Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness.” ~Richard Carlson
But it’s important to remember that stress triggers the “fight-or-flight” response. This process all begins in the brain (amygdala) as your brain interprets the environment and relays the information to appropriate centers of the brain to take action. Every system of the body prepares for the situation as many basic functions of the body slow down, as other areas ramp up so that we can survive an 'attack', or run away.
From PositivePsychology.com ::
10+ Symptoms of the response
When the hypothalamus sends its distress signal through the autonomic nerves to the adrenal glands, the hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) is pumped into the bloodstream, resulting in the following (Harvard Health Publishing, 2020; Nunez, 2020):
Heartbeat speeds up, pushing more blood and oxygen to the muscles and other vital organs. During a freeze response, heart rate may slow.
Pulse and blood pressure increase.
Breathing speeds up to get more oxygen into the blood. During a freeze response, breathing may be interrupted or restricted.
Small airways in the lungs open wide.
Increased oxygen to the brain leads to increased alertness and sharpened senses.
Pupils may dilate to let in additional light, and hearing improves.
More blood sugar (glucose) and fats are released into the bloodstream to supply extra energy.
Ongoing perception of threat leads to further release of adrenaline and cortisol.
Skin may get cold or sweat, as can hands and feet.
Pain perception may reduce.
Once the perceived threat is over, the parasympathetic system begins to dampen the stress response.
Or, at least, this stressed state should return to baseline.
But, over time, our bodies adapt to invoke that same response with smaller and smaller triggers.
“Fight or flight” is the normal operating mode for many of us, rather than the true emergency survival mechanism it was meant to be. We rarely work off that energy, take restorative actions or release ourselves from that state of mind.
Chronic stress affects every bodily system. It suppresses the immune system, slows metabolism and cell regeneration, makes airways reactive and creates muscle tension. It is estimated that 90% of doctor visits can be traced back to stress.
Stress can be linked to weight gain, heart disease and depression. It increases the risk of diabetes, hypertension, arthritis and osteoporosis.
Stress impairs cognitive function over time, reducing creativity, memory and problem-solving skills. Other studies show actual neurological changes over time in our brain!
Headaches, sexual dysfunction, irritability, problems sleeping and addictive behaviors are often stress-related.
The degree of stress we experience on a daily basis may be considered "normal"... and is typically applauded. but personal priorities, personal choices and our purposeful reactions to stress can limit the negative health effects of stress.
Pick a few of these suggestions below to reduce stress in your life and promote health and healing in your body.
1. Spiritual Triathlon: A powerful trio for many people. When you wake up--> 5 min in prayer. 5 min in gratitude. 5 min in the Bible or something inspirational.
2. Schedule relaxation. Write it down in your planner and stick to it. Make time at least once a week to do something you love–something that refreshes you. Maybe that’s a game of tennis, lunch with a friend, spending an hour alone with a good book or taking a yoga class.
3. Pour yourself a cup. Many varieties of hot tea have calming effects on the body and can help lower blood pressure. Herbal teas with chamomile, ginger, turmeric, bone broth... etc etc. Something warm and calming always helps!
4. Take a deep breath. Try deep breathing for a few minutes every day. Box breathing is the easiest thing to remember; 4 seconds in, 4 second hold, 4 seconds out. Tighten and release muscles. Hum to release nitric oxide and improve blood pressure.
5. Just say “No.” You'll be ok! Don’t spread yourself too thin or you won’t be able to give 100% of your efforts to any of the tasks you attempt. Your value does not depend upon how much you do for others at the expense of your own time, relationships and health.
“Men, for the sake of getting a living, forget to live.” ~Margaret Fuller
6. Expel excess adrenaline. Before, during and after stressful situations, walk briskly for 5 minutes, run up a flight of stairs, do backward pushups on your chair, or do 5 minutes of deep breathing. A short burst of physical activity can expel anxiety and give you clarity and calm.
7. Ask yourself WHY. The next time you’re racing around trying to accomplish too many things in too short a time, or something that is overly stressful... ask yourself... why? Who does it really serve? What belief its based on? And is this feeling really what you want, and is it a value or principle you want to base your life on.
8. Nix the caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Or... at least moderate. Don’t add to nervous energy with stimulants and don’t mask stress with alcohol. The long-term effects compound the negative effects of stress. Back it down to 1 cup of coffee, early in the day, with food (for starters). Have 1 or 2 drinks with your friends on the weekend... not 2 every night with your Netflix, and 8 on the weekend.
9. Exercise regularly. Regular exercise helps expel built-up tension, stress hormones and clears the mind. Exercise helps to release endorphins, the brain’s natural feel-good chemicals. I recommend Burst Training for the best all-around health benefits.
10. Sleep. Staying up late to get more done robs you of your total productivity. It dulls your mind, increases stress, promotes weight gain and contributes to mood swings.
11. Use your senses. Find colors that soothe you, wear fabrics that please you. Take a scented bath, play music you love. Paint, get a massage, or take a walk in the woods.
12. Connect with others. Making time for social connection is very important and restorative. Social connection is what makes us a part of something larger than ourselves and our worries. It gives us perspective.
13. Serve someone else. Related to connecting with others, try volunteering at a soup kitchen, making meals for parents with a newborn baby or helping with home repairs for an elderly neighbor. Remind yourself that it’s not always all about you.
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
14. Be prepared. You CAN combat alarmist or catastrophic thinking by being prepared. Keep a change of clothes in the car, create an emergency fund for car repairs, have an alternative proposal in mind at work, plan your week ahead of time, etc.
15. Make a vision board. Write down your goals and post them on a board where it can be seen every day. What do you want to accomplish? Who do you want to become? Print out pictures to visually remind yourself of what is most important to you.
“Life is a journey, not a destination.” ~Rumi
16. Share responsibility. Delegating really is an important skill. Instead of complaining about how much you have to accomplish, teach your kids to cook, share the credit with a co-worker, or work out sports shuttling with another parent.
17. Heat and cold: If your nervous system can take it... using heat and cold therapy can be a powerful tool! Even something as simple as a short cold shower (start with :30) or placing your face in a bucket of cold water.
Give these a try! Pick 2-3 to start with... and ingrain those within your everyday life. From there, implement another... and build from there!
-Sourced from: MaxLiving and Minnetonka Family Chiropractic
References and Resources
What Happens to Your Body During the Fight-or-Flight Response?
How the Fight or Flight Response Works
-American Institute of Stress
The Fight-or-Flight Response: Everything You Need to Know
The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain–body communication
Psychological stress, immune response, and atherosclerosis
Psychosocial stress and inflammation in cancer
What Is Chronic Stress? Learn How to Overcome Naturally