Stress: negative effects on your body and mind
WHAT INCREASES YOUR STRESS LEVELS IN DAILY LIFE?
Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the ever-increasing demands of life; everybody experiences it. For us to accomplish anything requires some degree of it to keep us motivated. However, our stress can be heightened to unhealthy levels by everyday situations. For example:
- juggling job and childcare
- workplace difficulties such as meeting deadlines or having difficulties with coworkers
- watching the NEWS on television
- financial difficulties
- caring for a sick family member
- being stuck in traffic and running late for work
- studying for exams
- worrying about your health
- relationship difficulties
- losing sleep
PHYSICAL RESPONSE TO STRESS
Your brain comes hard-wired with an alarm system for your protection. When your brain perceives a threat, it signals your body to release a burst of hormones to fuel your capacity for a response. This is the so-called “fight-or-flight” response. This allowed our ancestors to flee from a grizzly bear and other threats to life. Today it is often daily stressors that activate the same physical response. Your body’s physical response can be triggered by a wide variety of situations and problems.
Once the response is triggered your hypothalamus (an almond-sized control centre within your brain) sends messages to your adrenal glands. The adrenal glands send cortisol and adrenaline through your bloodstream. Sugar is pulled from your liver and fatty acids from your fat cells to activate your muscles. Your heart races and your breath shortens. Your body is getting ready for action.
The continual stress of modern life means that your alarm system is on most of the time. Over time, high levels of stress lead to serious health problems.
Common physical effects of stress on your body include:
- Muscle tension or pain
- Chest pain
- Change in sex drive
- Stomach upset
- Sleep problems
- Muscular tension
- Heart palpitations
- Gastrointestinal upsets, such as diarrhoea or constipation
- Skin disorders
Chronic stress can lead to more serious health issues.
Common effects of stress on your mood/emotional symptoms
- Lack of motivation or focus
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Irritability or anger
- Sadness or depression
- Disappointment with yourself
- Increased emotional reactions – more tearful or sensitive or aggressive
- Loneliness, withdrawn
- Mood swings
- Loss of confidence
- Feelings of being overwhelmed and unable to cope
Common effects of stress on your ability to think
- Confusion, indecision
- Inability to concentrate
- poor memory
Common effects of stress on your behaviour
- Overeating or undereating
- Angry outbursts
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Tobacco use
- Social withdrawal
- Exercising less often
- Diminished creativity and initiative
- Problems with relationships
Ways to reduce stress
Explore management strategies such as:
1. Regular physical activity
- Regular exercise can significantly reduce your stress levels. Schedule time for exercise e.g swimming, a workout at the gym; brisk walking; dancing.
- A walk in a peaceful place outdoors where you can appreciate nature can be calming.
- Other suggestions are participating in sporting activities such as soccer or tennis or taking your dog for a walk.
2. Spend time with supportive people
Socialize with your supportive family members and friends.
- join a group of friends at a cafe
- relax at home with your partner
- invite friends for dinner
3. Time management
If you are feeling overwhelmed by your workload consider the following questions:
What really needs to be done now?
How much can you do?
Is the deadline realistic?
What adjustments can you make to your planning?
Your day-to-day workload can sometimes seem unbearable. One way to cope is to take one task at a time. Make a list of things you need to get done and start with one task. Once you accomplish that task, choose the next one. The positive feeling of “checking off” tasks can be very satisfying and it will motivate you to keep going.
Schedule time to enjoy your hobbies e.g gardening, playing a musical instrument, painting, listening to music.
5. Relaxation techniques
Relaxation techniques, practised regularly, can help keep your stress levels down. There are many different kinds of relaxation methods. Try some and find what suits you. Examples are yoga, tai chi, meditation, visualization and Yoga Nidra.
Muscular Relaxation such as Progressive Muscular Relaxation:
Yoga Nidra is a type of meditation. There are many variations of the practice. To learn more and to listen to a script that will take you through the practice:
6. SEEK HELP FROM A COUNSELLOR
Before visiting a counsellor consider the following:
- What are the things which cause stress and tension in your life.
- How does this stress affect you, your family and your job?
- Can you identify the stress in your life as short or long term
- Do you have a support system of friends/family that could help you make positive changes?
- What are your biggest challenges to reducing stress in your life?
- What are you willing to change or give up for a less stressful life?
- Have you tried any ways to reduce stress? What works for you. What doesn’t work?
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO DISCUSS WAYS OF REDUCING STRESS IN YOUR LIFE CALL
VIVIENNE: 0478 783 506; 9943 2400