For most Americans, stress is an unfortunate part of everyday life. Constant or extreme stress is not only bad for the mind & body…it can also lead to a wide range of illnesses. April is Stress Awareness month and it is during this time that we shed light on something that plagues all of us, for one reason or another.
Stress can come from many different things and can be acute or chronic. Acute, or short-term, stress is the body’s immediate reaction to a perceived threat. This is often referred to as the fight-or-flight response. This type of stress isn’t always bad and doesn’t usually cause significant problems however, when it occurs frequently or on a regular basis, it can trigger anxiety, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other health-related issues. Chronic stress occurs when there are several acute stressors that don’t go away. The body does not have a fight-or-flight response to this type of stress. As a matter of fact, you may not even recognize this type of stress at all. It typically builds up over time and the effects may be more problematic. Chronic, or long-term, stress can lead to a wide range of illnesses such as headaches, stomach problems, and depression as well as increase the risk of serious conditions like stroke and heart disease.
If you suffer from chronic stress and can’t influence or change the situation, then you’ll need to change your approach. Try the following:
- Recognize when you don’t have control and let it go.
- Don’t get anxious about situations that you cannot change.
- Take control of your own reactions and focus your mind on something that makes you feel calm and in control.
- Develop a vision for healthy living, wellness, & personal growth. Set realistic goals to help you realize your vision.
There are many different ways to de-stress. Exercise has been proven to reduce stress hormones & chemicals more than any other activity. Whether it’s just a walk around the neighborhood, joining a new sport, participating in yoga or pilates, lifting weights, or taking a new class at your local gym, it will do wonders for your mind & body. Exercise and other physical activity produce endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers and improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Endorphins are also known as a “feel-good neurotransmitter.” When you exercise, your body produces endorphins which ultimately mean you will not only look good, you will feel good too!
Most of our internal stressors come from our own thoughts and beliefs. We have the ability to control these, but sometimes we become plagued by worry, anxiety, uncertainty, fears, and other forms of negativity. External stressors are things that happen to us that we often cannot control. These are unpredictable events include new deadlines at work and unexpected financial issues as well as major life changes such as a promotion, the birth or adoption of a child, or unexpected health issues or death of a loved one.
While you can’t avoid stress, you can minimize it by changing how you choose to respond to it. The ultimate reward will be a healthy, balanced life.