This is a guest article from my friend and wellness expert Dr. Peggy Malone. She discusses what stress is, how it affects us, and tips to manage it.
What is Stress Anyway?
There are 3 types of stress:
1) Physical: poor posture, exercise, excess weight, repetitive motions
2) Chemical: Pesticides, smoking, food preservatives, medications, alcohol
3) Emotional: This is the one that most people associate with stress. Feeling “stressed”. This can stem from relationship problems, financial strain, job stress etc.
More than half of the working people view job stress as a major problem in their lives. The number of people who have called in sick due to stress has tripled in the past four years. (According to a US government study.)
So who is dealing with excess stress?
All of us.
The Stress Response:
The stress response is also known as the ‘fight-or-flight’ response and it’s designed to save your life. Think about walking in the forest back in the times of your hunter/gather ancestors and you see a saber tooth tiger.
- Immediately your body is flooded with stress hormones including adrenaline and cortisol.
- Your heart rate increases
- Your blood pressure increases
- Your respiratory rate increases
- Your pupils dilate to take in as much light as possible
- Your awareness intensifies
- Your sight sharpens
- Your impulses quicken
- Your perception of pain diminishes
- The veins in your skin constrict to send more blood to your major muscle groups (responsible for the ‘chill’ sometimes associated with fear – less blood in your skin to keep it warm)
- Your blood glucose level increases – for fuel to fight or run
- Your non-essential systems like digestion shut down which allows more energy and blood flow to the major muscle groups to fight or run
Overall, your body becomes prepared physically and psychologically to fight or run which is why it is referred to as the “Fight or Flight” response. This response is designed to last for a few minutes only. Once you are out of harms way, all of the physiological responses associated with the stress response should return to normal.
The challenge in our modern day hustle bustle world is that we are always in fight or flight. Our bodies are always in a state of physiological stress as we try to adapt to all the stresses of our modern world. Being in this state all the time is making us sick!
Prolonging the stress response leads to the physiological conditions that define Heart Disease, Stroke, Type 2 Diabetes, Depression, Obesity, Chronic Pain, Fatigue, Anxiety, Osteoporosis etc. The stress response contributes to virtually every major health issue and every major chronic degenerative disease.
Tips to Manage Stress:
Following these tips to manage stress can go a long way to mitigating the damaging effects of chronic stress. Stress management is the term used to describe the strategies and coping responses that we produce in response to stress. The following are some simple strategies that can be included in any healthy stress management routine.
1) It only takes One Minute
People often say that they are so overwhelmed by stress that they have no time to even think about trying to manage it. Even one minute of stress management can go a long way towards to reducing the effects of stress on the body and mind. One of the best ways to use a minute is to focus on decreasing physiological arousal and cultivating a positive frame of mind. Let’s move on to our next tip to learn how to best use that one minute.
2) Breathe and Relax
Get comfortable and start with taking a breath. It sounds trite but your respiratory rate is the one piece of the stress response that you have voluntary control over. (It’s hard to think your blood pressure lower, but you can change your breathing just by thinking about it.)
Start by slowing down your breath, deepening it and breathing all the way into your belly such that it expands. On the exhale, make sure you expel your breath fully. In addition, when you exhale, think of relaxing your tension filled shoulders and letting them drop. You can add these one minute breath breaks in throughout your day.
3) Be Grateful
Once you’ve taken 2 or 3 breaths, turn your attention to something that you feel grateful for in your life. The most important aspect of this technique is to actually let yourself feel gratitude, rather than just thinking of things you know you should be grateful for.
The feeling of gratitude generates positive affect and a feeling of pleasure which works as an antidote to stress. Add these breaks in regularly throughout your day as well!
4) Move More
Some of the things that are effective at reducing the effects of stress include regular physical activity such as exercise, sports, or even just taking the dog for a brisk walk. If you can make it fun, even better!
5) Have Fun and Play!
Adults don’t play enough. Remember how much fun playing was when you were a kid? Just because you’re all grown up, doesn’t mean that play time is over. Get the kids, the dog, or the spouse and go play. Maybe you’ll go throw a ball around or jump around in the sprinkler or watch a funny movie, but playing is a great antidote to stress.
6) Eat More Good Stuff
Making sure that you’re putting high quality fuel into your body will definitely help with stress management. Eating processed crap is stressing your body chemically. To get away from stress, you need to eat more whole, single ingredient foods.
Getting enough high quality sleep is extremely important.
Laughter really is the best medicine… especially when it comes to managing stress. Pleasure, laughing, and having fun is a great antidote to stress because these activities release endorphins in our body which make us feel good.
9) Increase Your Close Social Contacts
Studies show that close ties to family and friends help to prevent illness and help to increase chance of survival when major disease strikes. Having more friends helps you manage stress!
10) Don’t Worry About Things You Can’t Control
Focus on the things that you can control and let the rest go. This one alone can make a massive difference in perceived level of emotional stress. When you are in a stressful moment, get into the habit of asking yourself if you can change or control what is happening… if you can, then do something about it… if you can’t check out numbers 1 though 9 on this list
Remember that stress is making you sick so by incorporating some of these tips into your daily life, you will be managing stress so you feel better today and you will be increasing your health and wellness so you can feel better for years to come!
Have a stress free relaxing day!
Dr. Peggy Malone
Dr. Peggy Malone is a health care provider, speaker, athlete, and health and wellness consultant.
She is passionate about helping women entrepreneurs take control of their health and wellness to go from exhausted to energized and achieve a healthy body, mind and ultimately, a healthy business!
Her television series ‘Living Well’ has inspired people from all walks of life to take control of their lives to be as happy and as healthy as they can be.
A former varsity basketball player, she is also a marathon runner and a 2 time Ironman Triathlon finisher. For more information about Dr. Peggy Malone, visit her website at drpeggymalone.com