There is a great deal of discussion on the topic of how stress affects the physical body, and for good reason. When we experience stress our sympathetic nervous system kicks in, our heart rate and breathing increase, and adrenaline floods the bloodstream preparing the body for the “fight-or-flight” response. When we are facing an immediate threat this response is good as it gives us the quick reaction time necessary to respond fast. When we are dealing with ongoing or long-term stress, however, this physical response can begin to cause problems in the body.
When we experience ongoing and long-term stress, the adrenal glands become exhausted and the body is unable to return to the rest-and-digest stage where it repairs itself on the cellular level. Because of this continued hormone disruption, we begin to experience both physical and emotional problems as a result.
Physical Symptoms of Chronic Stress
- Digestive disorders such as acid reflux, heartburn and irritable bowel disease (IBS)
- Inflammation conditions including skin rashes and joint pain
- Cardiovascular disease and increased risk of heart attack
- Insomnia and other sleep difficulties
- Anxiety and trouble concentrating
- Emotional distress and burnout
- Reduced immunity
- Increased drug or alcohol use
Coping with ongoing and long-term stress can be a challenge, especially once physical symptoms begin to present themselves – as these symptoms actually increase the stress levels. Learning to recognize the signs and symptoms of stress is a critical first step in managing the body’s responses.
There are several things we can do to help manage our stress once we recognize it.
7 Ways to Manage Stress
- Seek help from a qualified professional, especially if you are feeling overwhelmed, cannot cope or have suicidal thoughts or are using drugs or alcohol to cope.
- Social interaction greatly reduces stress, so get involved in a club, volunteer group or sports team to beat stress.
- Exercising for as little as 30 minutes a day can boost mood and reduce our stress levels significantly.
- Eat a healthy diet in order to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to maintain and repair itself. Supplements such as Stress Relief offer vitamin B-complex for energy, vitamin C, magnesium to combat inflammation, and folate as well as other ingredients to boost the immune system.
- Focus on your accomplishments and the positive things in your life and avoid dwelling on the problems you face.
- Practice mediation or a gentle form of meditative exercise such as yoga or tai chi to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality.
- Get your zzzz’s. Perhaps enjoy a sleep tea that helps you relax and fall asleep, reducing sleep disturbances and insomnia.