It is an understatement to say that the world you live in is stressful. With each day come new and sometimes mentally challenging adventures. However Chronic stress What can you do to yourself and your body when the pressure doesn’t seem to decrease?
When you look up the word stress in the dictionary, one of the meanings is pressing or pulling something beyond your comfort limits. It is the same medical meaning, but it also includes your body’s automatic protection system.
How do you describe your feelings when you are stressed? Many people say that they feel anxious and that their heart races. You may find it difficult to breathe and experience headaches, body aches, and perhaps even panic attacks. With panic come irrational thoughts and other emotional problems.
You have probably read countless books on how to simplify your life and reduce stress. People can minimize stress in their lives, but no one can eliminate it. You need a certain amount of stress to live, grow, and learn.
Stress in the prehistoric world
One of the most fundamental responses that evolved in the brain is the stress response. According to an article published by the American Psychological Association, this response is based on the central nervous system. Automatically supplies stress hormones to your body in case of real or perceived danger.
It is also known as fight, flight, freeze, or weak response. The prehistoric land was a volatile and dangerous place for the first ancestors. Finding shelter and searching for food was exhausting and the landscape presented many dangers.
Also, they often encountered threatening prehistoric animals that were man-eaters or poisonous. Even after humans discovered the benefits and protection of fire, the night was especially precarious. Ferocious animals were left in the shadows and the fears and superstitions of the people intensified.
If it weren’t for the stress response built into their brains, people would have been extinct millions of years ago.
Understand how the stress response works
The same automatic response you have has not changed from the one you had in your primitive ancestors’ heads. Only the stressors around you have changed. You may not have the threats of a dinosaur chasing you, but you still have modern pressures that invoke your automatic stress response.
An article published by the American Institute of Stress explains how your emergency response works. It’s what your brain uses to signal your body to prepare to fight, run, freeze, or pass out. In a life or death situation, a few seconds are crucial.
The article says that when your brain perceives a threat to your security, you instantly have physical symptoms. You can have one or all, depending on the stressor. Here are some of the symptoms you may experience:
Physical signs of the stress response
• Fast heartbeat and hyperventilation (rapid breathing)
• Goose bumps, pale or reddened
In the case of an acute (sudden) threat, share the article, your central nervous system speeds up, and your brain signals your endocrine system to discharge powerful stress hormones into your bloodstream. The two main hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, give your body a boost of strength to fight an enemy or run to safety.
However, your automatic response may be to freeze in place or even pass out. Regardless of what your body needs to do to be safe, it will be prepared and ready. Again, this response is intended for emergencies only and does not represent your normal strength and ability.
Have you ever read amazing but real stories of women lifting entire cars to free the people trapped underneath? You may recall experiences when you had additional resistance in a time of crisis. It’s these life-saving hormones that give you the strength, agility, and clarity when you need them most.
Chronic stress: false alarms
Because your stress response It is automatic, there is no way you can turn it on and off at will. It is built into your brain and will activate it acutely. However, undue stress can put your defenses on automatic pilot and wreak havoc on your body, mind and spirit.
Let’s go back to the case of the response of the primitive ancestors to danger. When they encountered a hungry carnivorous dinosaur or an angry woolly mammoth, their stress response caused them to fight, run, freeze, or pass out. The same answer keeps you safe when you are in danger.
Unfortunately, your brain doesn’t distinguish between the threat of a lion roaring at you or being late for work. Your brain takes any stress, real or perceived, as a threat to your life and will respond immediately.
When you have too much stress, your brain keeps detecting threats and pumps stress hormones into your body. These hormones are only intended for emergencies and were never intended as a permanent fixture in the bloodstream. What happens when you don’t relieve chronic stress?
How Chronic Stress Affects You Physically
One reason you may be overstressed is that persistent problems keep your stress response going, unlike acute dangers in your life. According to an article published by the National Institute of Mental Health, high stress hormone levels are a risk to your well-being.
At first, many people may experience headaches, body aches, insomnia, and emotional problems. All systems can be affected, including cardiovascular, immune, digestive, reproductive, and sleep. These systemic problems can contribute to diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers in the long term.
After an acute stress reaction, your body will normalize when the threat passes. Although, when you have chronic stress, the fight-flight response becomes your body’s new “normal.” Not only can it affect you physically, it can also be devastating to your mental health.
When you feel chronic stress, your emotions can be out of place, explains an article published by the Women’s Health Office. You may experience a lack of concentration and a feeling that your life is out of control. Forgetfulness and other mental problems are also common, the article explains.
Chronic stress can also cause anxiety and depression or make symptoms worse. When you worry about the intensity of your symptoms, you stress yourself more and it becomes a downward spiral. As your mental health suffers, you may also see consequences in your personal and professional relationships.
It is also common for people who are overly stressed to indulge in substance abuse, such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and illicit behavior. These substances can temporarily ease stressful symptoms, but the problems are still there. Additionally, substance abuse can intensify your stress levels.
Coping With Chronic Stress
While you can’t eradicate stress from your life, there are things you can do to keep chronic stress to a minimum. Balancing family, work, and other social responsibilities is not easy. Learning to manage your stress efficiently can make a big difference in your daily life.
You feel tired and overwhelmed? Have you often wished there were more hours in the day? If you notice any of the signs and symptoms of chronic stress, you can do something about it.
An article published by the American Institute of Stress offers helpful tips like getting enough sleep, eating right, and breathing mindfully. These are easy to incorporate into your daily routine. Here are some other stress management tools to consider:
1. Practice meditation
Meditation won’t solve all your problems, but it can offer you more clarity in finding solutions. All you need is a quiet place to sit or lie down and focus your mind. Close your eyes and become aware of your breathing.
It may seem silly at first, but you will understand. When intrusive thoughts occur to you, acknowledge them and release them with peace and compassion. Even if you practice 15-20 minutes a day, you will feel calm and less stressed.
2. Keep a journal
Keep a journal it is an ideal way to record your thoughts, worries and dreams. It is also an essential tool that can help you deal with chronic stress. Sometimes writing down your feelings can give you a new perspective.
3. Find a mental distraction
There may be stressors in your life that are unavoidable. However, you can find ways to divert your attention from them. Consider taking up an exciting hobby or learning a new skill. Maybe you can learn a second language, play a musical instrument, or do some work of art.
You can also find personal satisfaction and stress reduction by becoming a mentor or teaching someone else your skills. Keeping your mind engaged in positive activities can make you less prone to stress and reflect on your problems. The key is to get a little rest from everything.
Medical science has already shown the possible consequences of undue stress on your well-being. When you recognize the signs and you learn coping skills, you will notice a difference. Your life will be less stressful and you will have more time to do the things you love.