By Kristin Woodling, LMHC
We live in a much more chaotic world than our ancestors. Thanks to technology and our future oriented culture, we are expected to manage more tasks in an hour than our grandparents handled in a day’s work. Many people experience stress on such a regular basis they mistakenly think their bodies have become accustomed to the feeling. You may be accustomed to the feeling, but let me assure you, your body is suffering the consequences.
Imagine an animal out in the wild about to be preyed upon. The animal’s natural instincts ignite a stress response. All bodily functions not immediately needed including the immune system, digestive system, and metabolism (just to name a few) are put on hold. All energy and biological resources are diverted to survival functions. The stress response is intended to be brief and used in threatening circumstances. Upon survival, wild animals return to a state of rest to allow the body to recover.
The stress response is not unique to wild animals. In fact this biological phenomenon is experienced by humans. When you are under stress (fear, pressure, overwhelmed) your body releases specific hormones and increases glucose levels for optimal energy. If you are mindful of this change, you will notice increased heart rate, shorter more rapid breathing, increased blood pressure, and racing thoughts.
The sometimes fatal difference in comparing our stress to the stress of wild animals is the recovery period. How much down time do you give your body to rest and return to normal functioning? If your response is “minimal time” to “no time,” think about the effects this has on every inch of your body!
The following are red flags that you are exposing your body to too much stress:
- Unhealthy weight
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Digestive issues
- Skin disorders and rashes
- Muscle tension
Consider the following three choices to begin creating a healthier lifestyle for yourself.
1. Make stress management a priority!
No matter what roles and responsibilities you have in life, you will be more successful at them if you have your health. Stress negatively impacts your health, therefore, stress HAS to be a priority. Our society as a whole does not necessarily value stress management. Consequently, our society as a whole is not as healthy as we could be. So are you going to be a leader or a follower?
People in your life may not always support your desire to make healthy decisions. Only YOU can decide to make stress management a priority in your life. Only YOU can say NO to things that are unhealthy for you and YES to things that are healthy for you. Only YOU can put stress management at the top of your daily “to do” list. It’s not always easy, but it’s ALWAYS a choice.
2. Identify your stressors and face them.
You may have experienced a trauma that continues to create stress in your life. You may be stressed from having too much on your plate. You may have relationships in life that cause stress. Whatever the culprit is, make a decision to face it. It is tempting to avoid dealing with these issues and hope they will go away on their own. Let’s face it, the longer you avoid your stressors the longer they boil inside of you.
The good news is, once you decide to face your stressors, there is relief around the corner. It may take some courage and work to get there, but you will only find relief by putting one foot in front of the other.
3. Take a break.
Your mind and body deserve a break. Stress will always be a part of our life. You cannot cope with stress on an empty tank. You must give yourself permission to take breaks on a regular basis. This doesn’t have to be an expensive weekend vacation. It can be as simple as taking a walk in the evening or making time to read.
There should be NO excuses for skipping emotional breaks.
Kristin Woodling, LMHC
PamperYourMind.com | (321) 543-2087