In today’s day and age it’s very easy to be stressed. So many things are happening, so much information to take in on a daily basis, so many decisions to take constantly.
Our life today is nothing like the life our forefathers lived hundreds or thousands of years ago. But the reaction of our body and nervous system to perceived danger (aka “stress”) is the same as all these years ago.
We still have an instinct reaction of fight, flight or freeze. But in contrast to aeons earlier we don’t get the physical release for our stress hormones by actually running away or going into a physical fight (both of which reactions would help to “digest” the adrenalin that is flooding your body right now).
Instead we behave and control ourselves, which leads to a build-up of stress reactions in our body. We accumulate stress and it can become chronic. We don’t give our body and mind a chance to offload and get ready for the next challenge.
What Is Chronic Stress?
If you check out WikiPedia they define it as
[…] the response to emotional pressure suffered for a prolonged period over which an individual perceives he or she has no control.
So if you are not in control of what you need to do, if you are overwhelmed by too much information, too many demands on your time, too many requests from people around you, you might end up with chronic stress.
And it can be much more subtle to realize that you are experiencing (chronic) stress compared to acute stress which is this short but intense moment of panic when you are confronted with something that you perceive as danger, might it be a car speeding towards you or your boss yelling at you. These are very clearly stressful situations.
In contrast to that you might not define the daily niggling of your colleague or a family member as stress, but it might just be that if it is happening constantly over a prolonged period of time.
Do you know what stress can do to your body?
You might have experienced these things already but not necessarily realized that they are related to the stress you are going through.
Here are some possible symptoms of (chronic) stress:
- Headaches – caused by tense muscles in your back and neck
- Blood Pressure – going up due to a surplus of adrenalin in your system
- More Colds – due to a weakened immune system
- Digestion – is sluggish as your body focuses on fight or flight, not digesting during stressful periods
- Anxiety/Depression – which inhibits the growth of new brain cells in the hypocampus and in turn can lead to more stress
- Insomnia – as your body is in constant “alarm” so not a good time to fall asleep
Now all these issues can have other reasons as well, but acute and especially chronic stress can be a big contributor to these and other health problems.
Manage Your Stress
If you suspect that you suffer from acute or chronic stress there are quite a number of things you can do yourself immediately to help.
First and foremost that involves self care and and active approach to relaxation. To stay in balance your body does require relaxation as much as it requires action or stimulation (which can lead to stress if it is too much).
Here are some suggestions on what you can do to manage your stress before it manages you:
- Spend some time in nature eg go for a walk or take a break in the park
- Look after yourself with a massage (releases tension and gives you time out), take a bath or enjoy a manicure
- Have a sleep in to catch up on lost sleep
- Read a fun book
- Meet up with your friends for coffee, a chat or for dinner
- Meditate, do Yoga or Tai Chi
These are just some ideas to manage your stress and we would love to hear from you how you manage your stress. Just share in the comments below.