At some point of our life, we all experience stress. Stress can be a good or a bad thing. Knowing the type of stress you might be experiencing and how it effects your body can help you overcome it. Some examples of types of stress include work stress, financial stress, relationship stress, school related stress, stress due to life events and even lifestyle stress. Wow, that is a lot of stress.
Stress is a very common feeling. We all live a busy life and often we experience stress on a subconscious level and are able to pull through, not realizing we were stressed in the first place. However, unmanaged stress can eventually accumulate and become very harmful. Stress can cause mental and physical damage. This is why stress need to be acknowledged, recognized and treated with before it causes any damage.
My patients often ask me: “What happens to the body at stressful times?”, “How can stress be helpful and harmful at the same time?” Well, when our body faces a situation, for example a very important test or presentation, we produce Adrenalin and Cortisol. Both are hormones produce naturally by our body under stressful situation. Ever heard the phrase “fight or flight”? This is how our body respond and how we are able to preform under stress. Adrenalin and Cortisol can help increase our stamina, energy and ability to focus for a brief period of time. This process is great when in moderation or small amount. For example, when you need to avoid hitting that car that just cut into your lane. However, when the level of stress is very high and/or for a prolonged amount of time, it becomes difficult for the body to manage the production of Adrenalin and Cortisol. This is when too much stress has been accumulated and the body starts responding in a damaging way.
So how does the body respond when stress level is to high, the demands start to increased? How can you detect high stress levels? Well, this is a tricky thing. Often we are not ware we are under too much stress. Too many people live every day with working long hours, lack of sleep, little to no exercise, bad eating habits, and no personal time. While some types of stress are obvious, like lost of a love one, it is the every day lifestyle and activities that are overlooked as stress and considered a “normal” part of life. We believe that this is how life should be. That we should work long hours, so we can make more money and be more successful at work. We should stay up late and finish that paper so we can get a better grade. In order to avoid this “daily” stress, you must acknowledge the stress you are under and set limits in order to manage the stress and avoid any unwanted physical or emotional consequences.
What kind of physical warning signs should I be looking for? Your body is an amazing machine. It will give you warning sign for many medical conditions, if you are willing to listen. A body under too much stress will start to give warning such as body aches, irritability (short temper), fatigue, depression, weight gain or loss, lack of motivation, digestive issues and irregular sleeping patterns. If stress continues over a period of time, it can eventually lead to an increase in blood pressure, lower immune system capabilities, rashes & skin problems, heart conditions, strokes and other health issues. It is important to listen to your body and to recognize when stress is overloading the body and mind. If you feel like you exhibit any of these warning signs, it is time to do something about it.
What can you do about stress? There are many activities you can do to lower your stress levels. Exercise, group fitness, walking a dog, proper nutrition, mediation and reading to name a few. Just taking the time to take care of yourself is a great way to prevent stress overload. It is also strongly recommended you see a doctor and discuss what you feel, especially if you plan on taking up any form a physical activity. A doctor will have you go through a physical exam and may consider a short time medication to help you manage stress. He or she will also check to verify that what you are feeling is indeed stress and not some other underlying health concern. I recommend that you take time for yourself every day. Do something that is just for you. It doesn’t have to be long. 15 minutes could be enough. Take time to reevaluate your lifestyle and try to identify what is it you should change in order to reduce your stress level.
Personally, I love taking my dog on a long walk. What do you do to reduce your stress levels?