Someone once told me that you get stressed not from what you’re doing, but from what you don’t get done. I’m not going to tell you to just relax and take time off, because you probably won’t do that. I will, however, help you understand why it’s important for you to potentially make some changes that can help you learn to deal with and prevent stress.
For starters, being busy and being stressed are not the same thing. Stress is one of the greatest triggers of disease and imbalanced living in our time today. It’s something you have to face and deal with, or it will deal with you. The best solution is to learn how to implement daily stress prevention and nourishing self-care habits.
The Stress Factor
Stress may start in your head, but your body will show you the signs of living with chronic stress. Do you ignore your body when it’s crying out for attention, downtime, and care?
There are different levels of stress and often, we don’t recognize the first signs of it. Our bodies are designed to withstand it; it’s one of our most refined survival tools. The problem is, we were only designed to be stressed for short periods of time, not the way we live today, where stress has become our lifestyle.
When the body goes into stress mode, our entire nervous system is affected, which includes our hormones. This means when your body experiences stress, it will stop doing what it normally does to keep a smooth machine (you) running. Instead it will put your system on standby and focus on dealing with the danger. That means your adrenals, cortisol, and other hormones start racing. These all affect your heart, circulation, metabolism, lungs, and immune system. Blood sugar rises to increase fuel for energy and your blood’s clotting ability increases to be ready for the potential danger of injury. Your blood pressure rises to push more blood to your muscles so you can run faster, and to the brain so you can think faster (which doesn’t necessarily mean better).
In the 1930s, a researcher outlined the GAS effect (General Adaption Syndrome), which is related to stress:
Stage 1: Adrenal Stress
This is where you start feeling the energy slumps, irritability, or feeling wired. You may also experience trouble sleeping and have some digestive discomfort.
Stage 2: Adaption
When you learn to adapt, your symptoms actually lessen. It’s another survival tool.
Stage 3: Adrenal Exhaustion
Most people first realize they are suffering from stress at this point. Your body no longer has the juice to keep going, so there’s no more fuel from which to take. You’re constantly tired and get colds and other viruses continuously.
Stage 4: Physical Burnout
In this phase, your immune system breaks down and you start suffering from chronic conditions, such as sudden onset of allergies, depression, hypoglycemia, acid reflux, colitis, chronic fatigue, autoimmune diseases and severe disorders such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, MS, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis. Even cancer is connected to stress and severe emotional trauma, the greatest stressor of them all.
Common Signs of Stress:
- You can’t sleep
- You have digestive problems, stomach aches, excessive acid, and reflux
- You have constant headaches and migraines
- You have tightness or pain in your lower back
- You have heart palpitations and high blood pressure
- You get sick all the time, including colds or the flu
- You have increased abdominal fat you cannot get rid of
- You feel anxious all the time even when you have down time
- You’re exhausted and fatigued
- You cannot relax without feeling guilty
What Adds to Your Stress?
Lack of Sleep
Your body will see lack of sleep as potential danger lurking. And being tired makes it harder to cope with problems.
It might make you feel on top of the world after a cup or two, or what gets you going in the morning but it’s also what triggers your stress hormone to rise and what makes you more exhausted as the day goes by. It drains your adrenals even faster than stress alone would.
We are mostly water. When you’re dehydrated, your body will perceive it as danger that you’re not getting your first and most basic need met.
Not Having Food at Regular Meal Times
This is another very basic need for our bodies, but unfortunately, also the first thing we omit when we don’t have time. Lack of food is very much a red flag for your stress hormones. In body and hormonal language, no food is potential death.
That afternoon cookie or candy bar may seem to be the only thing that will get you through the rest of the day. But it actually triggers your blood sugar to spike too fast with the added anxiety and then fall down, which will cause you to drag your feet and feel fuzzy.
The Stress Busters
Apart from healing your relationships, getting rid of your nasty boss who does not appreciate your efforts, speaking your truth, doing one thing at a time, and realizing that you can indeed only be in one place at a time, there are many things you can do to reduce stress in your daily life.
Eat a Balanced Diet
You need all the nutritional support you can get from whole foods, which means consuming foods that are vegetable rich, contain good essential fatty acids, have lean proteins, and also contain wholegrain, a good source of glucose for energy. Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast, and don’t overeat.
Remember that food becomes your blood and your blood feeds your entire cell and hormonal system, your brain, your muscles, and your organs.
Though I’m not proposing to stimulate yourself with supplements, during a stressful time these can help. Adaptogens are herbs that support you in coping and recovering from stress. You still have to do what’s required to manage your stressors, though. They are not miracle cures. The best known adaptogens are Siberian Ginseng and Vitamin C. Other adaptogens are Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, and Shizandra, which you can combine or take separately. For emotional exhaustion. Olive from Bach Flower-essences is a good supplement. If you feel really anxious, some Rescue Remedy can help too.
Supplements based on the adaptogen mushrooms are helpful too, and boost the immune system. Examples of this are reishi, maitake, and cordyceps.
Have Some Fun
Moving and having fun is the next thing you can do to reduce stress. Get out in nature, exercise, or do yoga. Also spend some time being creative—listen to music and sing along, journal to cope with your feelings, and in general do more things that give you some pleasure.
Take good care of your body. Try some lovely baths, massages, and other touch therapies. We offer quite a few at the Path for Life Center.
Learn How to Be
This is also called “get out of your head,” and is better known as meditation. It can be very difficult to sit still when you’re stressed, but the good news is that you don’t have to. Meditation can be applied in many ways.
Exercise and movement, stretching and breathing—there are many ways to get your body out of the grip of stress. When your brain can finally learn to let be, your body can unravel too.
Remember this when life seems to take over: actions may be positive or negative according to the intention that underlies them, just as a crystal reflects the colors of its surroundings. Stress is what you make of it. It does start in your head.