Stress is a killer. You’ve heard this saying countless times, but how true is it? To better understand the answer to this question, let’s take a look at how the body reacts to stress.
Your body is naturally wired to respond to stress. Since the early days of man, people have relied on the body’s natural fight or flight reaction to help them survive potentially life-threatening situations. In modern times, we may not be hunted by saber tooth tigers; however, the many daily stressors of life, such as traffic, work, monetary and family demands can take a toll on your body.
During perceived threats, adrenaline increases your heart rate and elevates your blood pressure. Additionally, the body stress hormone, and cortisol increases glucose in the bloodstream.
According to the Mayo Clinic, cortisol affects your body’s immune system and suppresses the reproductive and digestive system as well as your body’s growth process.
This may be beneficial during brief episodes of stress, but if stress is constantly present in your life, the long-term effects can be devastating to your overall health. Here are a few health problems that can be caused by stress:
- Memory problems
- Sleep problems
- Heart disease
- Digestive problems
- Skin disease
Common Causes of Stress
While stress is a fact of life, how you react can make all the difference in the world. Everybody reacts differently to stress; some people may get very emotional, others just let events roll off their shoulders. Generally, the causes of stress are universal and typically include:
- Change in job or unemployment
- Divorce or breakup of a relationship
- Money problems
- Change in surroundings
- Chronic illness
- Pressure at work
Methods and Techniques to Relieve Stress
Now that you recognize the causes and effects of stress, let’s explore methods and techniques on how to relieve stress.
Research has revealed that exercise releases endorphins in the body. These are the natural chemicals that help to alleviate stress. A study completed by the University of California San Diego monitored over 900 people for a period of 10 years. The research revealed that the participants who exercise frequently have benefited from better moods than the people who didn’t exercise at all.
Additionally, the study revealed that the people that didn’t exercise are more likely to suffer from depression.
Nothing is more natural than taking a deep cleansing breath to slow yourself down during a stressful event. This simple exercise of slow, controlled breathing can quickly take your mind off a stressful event and help to center you on the natural rhythm of your breath – a free, built-in stress buster.
Close your eyes for a second and take a deep, slow breath – in through your nose and out through your mouth. Feel better? You bet! Take advantage of this technique as many times as you need to throughout the day.
Just like exercise, laughing also releases endorphins in your body. It also helps to take your mind off whatever is causing the stress. The next time you start to feel on edge, think about a funny situation to help diffuse the moment. A good sense of humor is a powerful social tool and a very effective way to keep yourself from overreacting to some of life’s stressors – don’t sweat the small things.
While this may be a far cry (pardon the pun) from laughing, tears actually help you to rid yourself of excess adrenaline and often releases stress reducing chemicals in your body. Also, for people who tend to bottle up their emotions, crying can be a way of letting them go. This is often a necessary step in releasing stress.
Your muscles and nerves are connected to your brain. Therefore, when your muscles are relaxed, your mind tends to follow. A massage is an effective way to relieve your muscles of any undue strain or tension. Massage also increases circulation and helps remove toxins from your body. This combination is a perfect recipe to help relieve stress in your body.
When and How?
Whether you choose to get a massage, go to the gym, practice deep breathing or have a good laugh or cry, it doesn’t matter just as long as you take the time to let go of whatever thoughts are causing you stress. These acts may sound simple; however, they are very necessary for the health and well-being of your body.