For the most part, we fellow Americans do a fairly good job of removing the things from our lives that we know have been proven to kill us. We try not to eat too much fat, sugar, or salt. We try to limit alcohol and drug use. Some of us quit smoking, while others work hard to drink more water, eat a well balanced diet and make it to the gym every day. But, there’s still one thing that most of us do way too much of. And, this one thing just happens to be the NUMBER ONE KILLER OF MANKIND TODAY. What is it, you ask? The answer is stress.
When we perceive stress, our bodies release hormones called epinephrine (adrenalin), nor-epinephrine and cortisol. These hormones increase heart rate, respiration and increase the availability of glucose (cellular fuel) in the blood, which enables a “fight or flight” reaction.
While this response uses a ton of energy, stress simultaneously tells our bodies’ other physical processes (digestion, reproduction, physical growth and immune system) to slow or shut down.
So, stress is our bodies’ way of responding to any kind of demand that is placed on it. But, here’s something that is very important to keep in mind: our body does not recognize the difference between physical, chemical or emotional stress. So, in order to manage or decrease our stress load, we must first evaluate all of the sources of stress.
Physical stress can be caused by pushing your body to the limits, working out at the gym, training for marathons (or other long distance events), driving long distances continually, staying up too late, getting up too early, sitting in front of a computer for extended periods without breaks, skipping meals, not drinking enough water, and any kind of labor intensive job, etc.
Chemical stress can be caused by consuming too many cups of coffee, too much alcohol, too much junk food or sugar, too many medications, inhaling chemical substances at a factory or office, smoke in your environment, applying products filled with chemicals on your skin every day, and breathing polluted air, etc.
Emotional stress can be caused by family problems, relationship problems, holding onto fear, shame or guilt, the inability to give or receive love, the inability to ask for help or emotional support, grief and sorrow, unresolved anger and inability to forgive, loss of loved ones, lack of hope, etc.
What can we do to decrease our stress load?
- Identify the sources of your stress. Figure out what is really bothering you – it’s the first step in managing your stress.
- Be physically active and get outside every day.
- Share your feelings and ask for support. Talking to friends, family or co-workers can help you feel better.
- Take time for yourself. Stop short-changing yourself while trying to meet everyone else’s needs.
- Breathe. Take 10 minutes out of each day just to sit and breathe. This has been proven to decrease the stress hormones that wreak havoc on our health.
- Make time to laugh and have fun. Laughing is your body’s natural stress-relieving mechanism.
- Eat well. Don’t skip meals. Big rises and falls in blood sugar are extremely stressful on the body.
- Drink enough water. The link between dehydration and stress is well documented. If you’re not hydrated your body is under more stress than you realize.
- Take your vacations. Getting away from it all is important to your mental and physical health.
- Be thankful for what you do have.
Check out what the leading functional docs are saying about stress management. These tips are awesome!
I’ll leave you with this. Remember that you can be doing “everything right” by exercising each day, eating a well balanced diet, drinking water, etc. But keep in mind that if your stress is too high, the rest wont matter. You can exercise (which is a form of stress) all you want, but if you don’t remove the source of your stress-then really what you’re doing is adding to it.
Stress trumps it all when it comes to unhealthy habits! Don’t let it ruin your health. Take action.
Make an effort to manage your stress each day. You’re worth it and the health benefits are endless.