Poor Stress Management Is Killing You
Your body’s nervous system has a way of letting you know you’re in danger by releasing a flood of stress hormones. Cortisol and adrenaline shock your body into emergency mode. For a brief moment, your body actually becomes stronger and hyper-focused. Once the threat has passed, your body returns to normal.
In fact, stress is the body’s natural way of protecting you - for a little while. This is called the fight-or-flight response in which your body prepares to either fight or flee from the threat at hand.
Stress can be chronic
Stress is typically caused by some pressure or strain. This pressure can be physical like being overwhelmed with work or being chased by a bear, emotional such as the experience of grief or losing someone you love, or psychological like a phobia. When this pressure or strain does not dissipate and your body’s stress response is always “switched on”, you experience chronic stress.
Where normal stress is one of your body’s defence mechanisms, chronic stress actually disrupts your body’s ability to self-regulate and regenerate.
What is it doing to your body?
Stress causes your blood vessels to constrict and your muscles to become tense. This forces the heart to pump faster which leads to higher blood pressure. While the body is able to recover from normal stress, the same cannot be said when under chronic stress.
Although research doesn’t prove that stress in itself is a direct cause of long-term high blood pressure, poor stress management can lead to harmful behaviours such as smoking, binge eating unhealthy food, and substance abuse that increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke. It can also cause havoc to your immune, digestive, and reproductive systems, rewire the brain leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions, and even speed up the ageing process.
If left unchecked, stress can actually be harder on the body than harsh physical labour. Chronic stress has been known to be the root cause of multiple comorbid illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, autoimmune diseases, and some types of cancer.
What can you do about it?
The good news is that managing stress is not an impossible task. Healthy habits can help lower stress levels and lower your health risks. Here’s how you can do it:
Exercise: Regular exercise can reduce stress and lower blood pressure, and strengthens your heart by training it to pump more efficiently. Exercise also releases endorphins, the feel-good chemical.
Breathe: Deep breathing or meditation for a few minutes a day can help calm you. A simple method to practice breathing is to gently place a hand on your stomach so that you can actively feel your abdomen expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale.
Rest: Not getting enough rest or sleep can affect your mood, impair your judgment, and cause brain fog. It may help to discipline yourself to set your phone aside before bedtime or to take short naps during the day.
Laugh: Relaxing with friends and loved ones, watching a comedy, and just laughing over silly things can actually boost your mood and make you feel better. It also signals to your brain to not take things too seriously.
Journal: Taking time to practice self-care and analyse your day can help you to express yourself, gain perspective, and prioritise tasks so that you can focus on spending your time and energy selectively.
Therapy: Speaking to a mental health professional can teach you healthy coping mechanisms and how to let go of stressors. It’s a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone and overcome stressors.
Stress is a normal part of life but it’s up to you to take steps to manage it in your life before stress wreaks irreversible havoc on your life.
Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how Naluri’s comprehensive health coaching programmes can help you and your team better manage stressors, build better habits, and improve your health.
- Written by:
- Chloe Pharamond