We all have stress. There are the little ones like preparing for a job interview or driving in rush hour traffic. And there are big stressors such as working in a fear-based environments or teaching your teenager how to drive. But how is stress affecting you?
Stress has a direct impact on your body. It activates the fight or flight response in your body. Which is great if you’re in danger. But not so great if you’re just worried about the report that you’re late with or the stop-and-go traffic that you’re stuck in.
You’re body can’t tell the difference between a life and death stress situation or one brought on by work related issues or fighting with your spouse or the traffic. Your body reacts the same. Heart rate raises, oxygen gets pumped into your lungs and muscles. Once the “threat” is gone you’re body is supposed to resume normal operating procedures.
But what happens when the stress doesn’t go away? What if your day is filled with constant stress? You don’t hear the alarm go off in the morning, you’re late for work because you’re stuck in rush hour traffic, you didn’t finish the report that was due yesterday, you fail to meet your goals for the day, you get a lecture from your boss, you drive home upset in the evening rush hour traffic, get into a fight with your spouse, and start yelling at your kids for fighting. What if things like this happened every day?
How Constant Stress Affects Your Body
Stress causes your heart to beat faster in order to pump oxygen-rich blood to your lungs and muscles. If this is constantly happening throughout the day, each day, then you’re putting stress on your heart. It can lead to high blood pressure, a stroke, or a heart attack.
Your liver produces extra glucose so you will have an extra boost of energy to fight your enemy or run. But if you’re stressing all the time, that extra glucose in your body can lead to Type II Diabetes.
The muscles in your body tense up under stress in order to protect themselves from injury. Being under constant stress can lead to tight muscles in your back and shoulders, which leads to muscle pain, maybe even headaches. Which in turn, can lead you to stop exercising and start gaining weight.
There are a bunch of other problems that chronic stress can cause. Loss of sleep, anxiety, memory loss, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, a weakened immune system, depression.
How to Manage Your Stress
The first thing in managing stress is recognizing that not all stress is bad. Stress that keeps us out of harm’s way is good. Stress that happens during exciting events such as your wedding day or the first day on a new job can actually be good for you.
But we need to be aware of the bad stressors. Getting caught up in the stress of bad traffic or a bad job or recognizing the stress that a chronic illness (yours or a loved one) can have on you. For some, it helps that you plan out response ahead of time, something that will keep you on an even keel.
Check out my post How to Make Your Own Extreme Toolkit for a way to plan out these responses. Or even a plan for how to remove these stressful situations or negative people from your life. If you can’t avoid the stress, plan out those things you can do that will help you reduce or relieve the stress. Some examples include:
- Restorative yoga
- Yoga Nidra
- Regular exercise
- Soothing music while driving home
- A warm bath
- Hugs from your significant other
- Hugs from your children
- Hugs from your pet
- Talking to a therapist
What are some stress relievers that you recommend?