What is stress? Stress is when your body perceives danger, or a threat, possibly due to you becoming tense, hyperventilating, or becoming angry. When our bodies think they are in danger, they release adrenaline and cortisol, the fight or flight hormones that accelerate breathing and heart rate. (Also of note, cortisol, released during stressful times, causes your body to put on bodyfat!)
Back in ancient times, that boost of stress hormones was usually directly related to a life-threatening event. By life-threatening I mean as in being chased by a lion! Back then, stress wasn’t an everyday common occurrence like it is today. Once in a while you need that shot of adrenaline (and it can be beneficial). However, when you are feeling stressed day after day on a prolonged basis, this becomes very unhealthy. It’s called “chronic-stress”.
Prolonged stress will manifest itself in many physical ailments. Stress can cause a weakened immune system, sleepless nights, depression, clouded thinking, hair loss, skin problems, high blood pressure, weight gain or excessive weight loss, and many more. In short, stress can make you snap.
So, what’s a girl to do? There are myriad ways to deal with stress. First, it’s probably handy to figure out exactly what it is that is stressing you out. (It may be several things.) Once you know where the problem areas are, you can formulate a plan.
Is the stressor something temporary or permanent? Is it something that you have control over (can you do something about it yourself) ? If you can change it, then focus on what you can doto improve the situation. By the way, complaining (except for occasional “venting”) is useless. If you’re going to put energy into complaining, then put that energy into making positive changes instead. And, by the way, those around you will thank you for the break too!
Exercise…..we all know the value of exercise when dealing with stress. Not only does exercise burn extra calories, but your body also produces endorphins during exercise. Endorphins are natural pain-relieving chemicals that also help elevate your mood. Exercise reduces the physical stress on your body too because it helps you burn off body fat. Less body fat means less overall stress on your heart, lungs, and joints, lower blood pressure, and an improved sense of self. Exercise helps you get rid of negative energy like frustration and anger, even depression. It replaces those feelings with motivation, enthusiasm and cheerfulness. If you wear yourself out at the gym, you just won’t have the energy to be angry anymore! The “alone-time” you spend with yourself during cardio sessions is invaluable. It gives you the time to think and work through things in your head. No matter which way you slice it, when you’re done working out, you feel good. Period.
You can also try some of the well-known stress relieving activities like yoga, tai chi, meditation, or massage.
Other stress-control tactics include things like planning ahead so you don’t have to hurry; setting goals and having a plan; de-clutter-ing your environment (house, closet, car, workspace); learning to change your reaction to certain stressors or choosing “not to react” at all. Some people even keep a “Stress Journal” so they can pinpoint trouble areas and deal with them.
All in all, sometimes you just need to really think about what’s important to you in life. Ask yourself, “Will this matter five years from now?”… or even one year from now? If it’s not even going to matter….then why does it matter?! Don’t let stress get to you. Work it out – in more ways than one!