Updated: Apr 11, 2021
"Let's talk about stress, baby
Let's talk about you and me
Let's talk about all the good things
And the bad things stress may be"
Let's talk about Stress!
Only people of a certain age are going to catch this lyric. That's OKAY! If you don't get it, no problem, the message is the same. As I was thinking about this topic this lyric popped into my head and I thought it was perfect!
What is stress? Is it Good? Is it bad?
It is our bodies natural defense mechanism! It is an amazing built in response to help keep us ALIVE! The stress response is also called Fight or Flight. It is likely that most of you have heard this term before. This when we perceive a threat (example: a vicious animal) and our body and lower brain takes over! Blood pours in to our and heart and muscles so we can RUN or FIGHT. Is it good? In this case...YES! This is instinct and it perpetuates our survival.
How could this be bad?
Our bodies response, although amazing is not that smart and can be easily fooled by our brain. Our brain may respond to our busy schedule, work load or social interactions as life threatening. So while it is life saving, in the short term when there is real danger, it is destructive when this response is occurring on an ongoing basis.
Why? When blood rushes to our our heart and muscle we have more energy, ability and agility to escape a dangerous situation. There is a cascade of physical and chemical reactions that occur. Our autonomic nervous system activates the "Stress Circuit" which controls our body's response to stress as well as regulating other vital functions like digestion, immune system, mood, sexual behavior and overall energy usage.
What goes up? Our heart rate, blood pressure, metabolism, adrenalin production, blood sugar and sensory awareness.
What goes down? Our thought processes, creativity, concentration, immune and digestive system processes.
This is great! FOR SURVIVAL. THIS IS NOT GREAT LONG TERM.
We call this CHRONIC STRESS.
Chronic stress is behind many illnesses, is a strain for our bodies and can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems, including:
Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke.
When our immune system is weakened we are more susceptible to infections.
Stress is involved in the development of autoimmune diseases, heart and blood vessel diseases, and cancer. Continuous shots of elevated adrenaline can harm blood vessels, raise blood pressure and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Stress can increase our appetite which causes storage of excess energy (if we are not using it fight or run) and weight gain. When our blood is diverted to our core for survival we have deterioration of cognitive and emotional skills. Have you ever tried to solve a math problem in the middle of a crisis?! This also means there are problems with concentration and memory.
Recap: Like most things in life there is no black and white answer. It is a variation of gray.
Stress can be miraculous and save our life!
Stress can be motivating and push us to excel and perform.
Stress can be chronic, destroy our bodies and set us up for serious health issues.
So now what?
Now we talk about all THE GOOD THINGS we can do to manage chronic stress. We can use our mouth, body and brain!
What goes in your MOUTH can drastically effect your ability to use your brain and bodily functions.
Our bodies are AMAZING machines that do incredible things. We have systems for healing, fighting invading viruses and bacteria, systems for gas exchange, waste elimination, muscle and cell regeneration, and so much more! Our bodies also regulate hormone and neurotransmitter production which affect our mood and emotions.
If we do not give our body nutrients (a substance that provides nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life.) Our bodies CANNOT do what they were made to do.
Here are just a few foods and their connection to our mood.
Oranges- reduce stress by reducing cortisol
Avocado- folate turns in to dopamine reducing depression
Bananas- B6 and tryptophan make serotonin
Salmon- Omega 3 fatty acids can reduce depression by up to 50%
Green Tea- L-theanine promotes calm
Blueberries-anthocyanin a powerful antioxidant produces dopamine
Important: AVOID REFINED SUGAR. It is associated with DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, CHRONIC FATIGUE, IRRITABILITY, AND MOOD SWINGS
Using your BODY to manage Stress.
EXERCISE! A single brisk (aerobic) walk can Increase production of:
Dopamine: feelings of hope and excitement
Serotonin: calming, feel good effect Noradrenaline: increased heart rate, blood flow, oxygenation Endorphins: energy boost, anxiety reduction
You get an immediate boost in MOOD, ENERGY, FOCUS and lowered levels of ANXIETY and STRESS
DEEP BREATHING is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. The brain then sends this message to your body. This is the opposite of the Fight or Flight response, this it the REST AND DIGEST response. Deep breathing is not just relaxing; it's also been scientifically proven to affect the heart, the brain, digestion, the immune system. Research has shown that breathing exercises can have immediate effects by changing blood pressure and decreasing heart rate.
Using your BRAIN to manage Stress.
THINK about what are you putting in your brain?
•Are you listening to the news all the time?
•Are you on Facebook groups that constantly discuss negative things?
•Are you watching crime shows?
•Are you around people who complain all the time?
How do you talk to yourself? Are you kind?
Why does this matter?
When our brain is under chronic stress it can lead to physical symptoms such as headaches and chest pain. It can produce mood problems such as anxiety or sadness. It can even lead to behavioral problems such as outbursts of anger or overeating.
Also associated with:
•Increased Mental Illness-anxiety depression
•Changes in Brain Structure-decision making and problem solving
•Brain Shrinkage: emotion, metabolism, memory
•Loss of Brain Cells: cells-study, no change in production but one week later stressed rats has less brain cells
What can you do?
Here are 3 things....
Remind yourself that adversity does not discriminate, terrible things happen to everyone. This IS what life is. Facing challenges NORMAL and EXPECTED.
Choose where you place your attention. Think of 3 good things every day. Manage what goes in! DECIDE what you want to think about.
Ask yourself frequently: Is the way I am thinking or what I am doing helping or harming me?
Life is hard sometimes and that is normal. The stress response is REAL whether or not the stressor is immediately life threatening. Life is at least 50% hard for most people.
There are times where we are filled with joy and happiness and times where we suffer. Neither is permanent so learning to embrace the present, savor, learn and grow from each experience is empowering for ourselves and others. Loving and listening to those around us affects their lives. And although we cannot change the circumstances, we CAN change what we choose to focus our thoughts on so that we can feel the way we want, take action from a place that serves and get the results we are looking for in this life.
Embrace the GOOD stress and MANAGE the bad stress.
"Spinderella Cut it up One Time!"