Reducing Stress is Key

Facing stress may prove to be one of the more difficult things we do on a daily, weekly, oh hell... It's a lifelong process. Luckily, we're hard wired to respond to stress; it's the recovery from those stresses we need to pay attention to. We are bombarded all day long with life's ups & downs. Most of them small and easily managed. Others my take a bit more of our attention and then there are Those days. These stresses, good and bad, affect us both psychologically and physiologically. And the way we recover from these stresses, over the short term and long term, has a profound influence on the quality of our life, health and our longevity.

Above I wrote we're hard wired to respond to stress. What I meant by that is our brain has an alarm system that's triggered by stresses and perceived threats. These triggers cause the release of the neurotransmitters dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine. In small amounts these neurotransmitters cause an increase in our heart rate, blood pressure and respiration and can even cause sweaty palms. As the stress levels increase so do these hormones, and when the adrenal glands really kick in and dump larger amounts of adrenaline into our system our fight or flight response will be turned on and all of these physiological responses become more pronounced. Our immune system can become compromised and if the stress is great enough or very sudden, it can trigger arrhythmia, a heart attack, stroke and even sudden death. For many people this cardiac event, often fatal, is the first sign or symptom they have cardio vascular disease. Under normal, healthy circumstances your body should recover from these stress responses and return to relaxed state. But over time, as these stresses continue to hammer on us, we recover less and less, entering a state of chronic stress.

Without the proper tools to manage or alleviate it, this chronic stress will interfere with our ability to experience a normal life. Our work and relationships may start to suffer and we might begin to experience muscle stiffness, headaches, joint pain, fatigue and irritation. It is not uncommon for people dealing with chronic stress to become depressed, anxious, have panic attacks and insomnia. More significantly, chronic stress can make existing health issues worse and has been linked to the development of some cancers and heart disease.

So, what can you do?

I think an important thing to do is consider any negative ways you may be coping with stress / chronic stress. Over eating or stress eating and self medicating with alcohol, illegal and prescription drugs are not uncommon and will never solve your stress issues. In fact, they will only make things worse and your health will suffer greatly. These are very serious issues to overcome and you should seek guidance and assistance from a trained professional right away. For me it was abuse of alcohol and prescription pain medications that did little more than keep me numb while I slid more deeply into a suicidal depression and a night in the hospital. I received the help I needed of course but I Highly recommend avoiding that method.

There are dozens of approaches to reducing the affects of your daily stress. Something as simple as just walking away from an uncomfortable or stressful situation. Express your feelings, either verbally or in the form of journaling or blogging. Meditation is very popular and can take a traditional form or be as simple as sitting quietly in a garden watching the birds and bees do their thing. Painting and writing short stories. Unplugging from social media and your inbox for several hours a day. Walks in the woods or along the beach. Maybe turn those walks into a jog. In fact, any form of mild exercise can help reduce stress and its harmful affects on the body. I enjoy a hot bubble bath from time to time, and reading a good book is always a nice distraction. Focus on getting a good night's sleep and if none of these things sound helpful, please consider reaching out to family, friends, a support group or a professional.