Physical stress is the product of overusing the body and mental stress is a product of overusing the brain. In short amounts, stress is not harmful to the body or mind and can actually be a good way to build strength and stamina; in the long run, however, the opposite is true. In our society today, we never really appear to get a break from stimulating our brains in one form or another, and most of us have to go to great lengths to overstress our bodies. Mental stress is a huge problem for most people today because of the added stimulation through technology, less time spent outdoors, and minimal knowledge/priority self-care. Our population is mentally stressed out and that is causing health problems. Many people might not be aware of the signs of being overly stressed; you may feel stressed but you might be ignoring the side-effects of stress.
When the body is under stress it produces the hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. Cortisol and adrenaline are released from the adrenal gland, and norepinephrine is released from both the brain and adrenal glands; they are all triggered when the brain feels the body is under stress. Adrenaline and norepinephrine are similar. Adrenaline is the body’s flight-or-fight hormone when the brain believes the body is in danger. Cortisol is a little different than the others because it is a steroid hormone. All of these hormones work together to keep you alive, alert, and responsive to your surroundings. These hormones are beneficial when needed; it is not often you’ll find yourself being chased by a bear. Instead, the bear is a metaphor for your job, social media, career, and relationships. Since our brains are overstimulated by our environment all the time it important to understand how stress can affect your body.
The most common side effect of too much stress on your body mind and spirit:
Unable to turn off your brain, or over thinking
Decreased or lack of motivation
Unable to focus or stay focused
Constant feeling of being overwhelmed or overworked
Easily irritated or angered
Increased sadness or depression
Frequent headaches or migraines
Increased muscle tension or pain in the body
Chest pain or pressure in the chest, maybe even finding it difficult take deep breaths
Insomnia and chronic fatigue
Change in sex drive
Stomach pain or easily upset stomach
A change in eating habits, whether that is overeating or undereating
Easily frustrated and quick to show emotions, especially anger
Having little to no patience
Withdrawing from doing things you enjoyed in the past
Coping with drugs, alcohol, or tobacco; possibly even overusing them
Being anti-social or wanting to be left alone
Lack of desire to exercise or increase your heart rate.
Stress affects our minds. Over time, the side effects of stress can do major damage to our bodies. Most people try to cure the side effects of stress by taking a vacation once a year or treating oneself to the occasion massage. However, if you’re under a chronic amount of stress, doing this periodically is not enough to avoid the health risks of a high-stress life. Some types of stress require daily stress management in order to keep your stress at safe levels. The best way to get your stress under control is a to have a routine; while I always recommend adding in a daily meditation practice to your life, there are other ways to manage your stress. However, the reason I am such an advocate for a daily meditation practice is because meditation trains our brains to respond to stress in a different way. Meditation teaches us not to sweat the small stuff. Below are a list of other ways you can manage your stress, so that you can avoid putting your health at risk.
Meditation. Reduces cortisol reduction in the body and gets our body in rest and digest mode.
Exercise. Causes the release of endorphins and gets the blood moving, even if it is jumping up and down for a minute.
Sleep is like pushing the reset button on your brain. Is important because a lot of cell repair happens when we sleep. Lack of sleep can cause a major stress spike, so get your zzz.
Self-Care. Getting a massage on a regular basis, acupuncture, taking a bath, dry brushing, hot towel scrub, or just go for that full spa day.
Journaling . Can help get those stressful thoughts on paper. If you have too much you need to get done, then writing out a list can get it out of your head and onto a piece of paper so you don’t have to take up that space “up there.” It is also a great place to vent it out where it doesn’t disrupt anyone else’s happiness or peace.
Animals. Having a pet or borrowing on for the day can do wonders to lift your spirit and lower stress levels. If you can’t have a pet, volunteering at a local animal shelter can make a difference in more than just your life.
Talking it out. There is nothing wrong with sitting down and talking to someone about how you are feeling. Whether it is a friend, a loved one, or a paid professional, talking it out can reduce your stress. Keep in mind there is a difference between venting and talking about how you are feeling. Talking just to complain can be stressful to others so keep that in mind when you feel like opening up. No one likes to feel stressed out by their friends or family.
Doing something you love but might not always have time for. It will bring you back to a happy place and you’ll feel good while you do it. Could be anything from a craft project to playing a video game.
Cleaning your workspace. They say, “cluttered house, cluttered mind.” The more things you have, the more you are weighed down. Having clean space will help clean your mind and reduce tension and stress.
Listening to peaceful music.
Dance it out. It will get you moving and the music will lift your spirits.
Grab a coloring book. Color has been shown to reduce stress and quiet the mind. Who doesn’t love to color!
Drink a warm beverage. Something soothing can help to calm your stress. Warm water with lemon, chamomile, or st. john worts are wonderful herbal teas for stress management. Avoid things containing caffeine because too much can cause anxiety, depression, and dependence.
Get your butt to a yoga class. Even just entering a studio can make you feel more relaxed and relieve your stress.
Have sexy time. Not only will it strengthen your relationship, but you both will get some much needed stress relief.
Aromatherapy. Try using a little lavender, chamomile, or other stress release smells in your workspace. Aromatherapy can also be used to help you feel more focused and energized.
Watch a funny movie or video. Laughter is a perfect way to let all of your stress go.
Practice better time management. Try getting a bit more organized with your time. If this means waking up a few minute earlier, then give it a go. You might find you’re not as rushed and can get more done.
The most important thing about stress management is that you do it daily! Find what works best for you and your schedule and make a habit out of it. Don’t be afraid to make time for yourself because you’re no good to anyone when you’re stressed out.