We are being bombarded today by events that inflict stress on the human mind, body, and spirit. I am not sure what is more stress-inducing- the fact that the Coronavirus is still active, and the numbers of folks dying continue to climb and the fear of a resurgence of the virus while we wait for the vaccine, or the civil unrest demanding change, that our country and the world is growing through. Regardless, I can think of no better time to talk about stress-relieving strategies than right now.
First, we should review that there are many levels of stress: Calm, Acute, Eustress, Distress, and Chronic:
- Being in a state of Calm is relaxed and without worry or anxiety.
- Acute stress helps us with survival. This type of stress gives the strength and courage we never knew we had.
- Eustress is considered stress that has a positive connotation like the stress that you feel when you are prepared but still worried about taking a test, or getting married, or having a baby, or getting a job promotion, all good things.
- Distress is a stressful state that has adverse effects, divorce, injury, financial problems.
- Chronic stress is when any stress is persistent for an extended amount of time and this will impact your health and immune system.
Being in a chronic state of Calm has a positive effect on your health. The science research reports that being in a calm state can reduce elevated blood pressures, reduce histamine responses, and improve your overall health. I think of great spiritual leaders as being a constant state of Calm. So, if this is you, congratulations.
What is the human response to stress?
Physiologically stress stimulates a response from the sympathetic nervous system, which releases adrenaline and noradrenaline. These hormones designed to protect the body and this response is also known as “fight-or-flight”. These hormones are released regardless if the stress/threat is real or imagined. In a real threat, the fight-or-flight response is designed to save you or your loved one’s life, will you run, or will you fight that Tiger? Imagined threats can be situations that stimulate a physical response but is not a direct threat to your life, such as watching violence on television. The physical and emotional symptoms of fight-or-flight are an increase in heart rate and blood pressure; your breathing can quicken; your face may feel flushed. You may feel pale, and your hands and feet may get cold and clammy. You can feel on edge and have a heightened sense of alertness, you are lookout for danger. Unfortunately, when we are not aware of the stress or do not take time to reduce our stress, our body becomes stuck in a fight-or-flight response. Being stuck in this stress response is where we run into health problems, such as hypertension, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, sleep disruption, and skin issues.
Signs that you might be experiencing a chronic state of stress are being easily agitated or angered, irritable or restless, having a feeling of being overwhelmed, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, problems with memory or concentration. This state can feel exhausting because it is exhausting. But this can be reduced, and balance can be achieved.
How to reduce the impact of stress.
A great and essential start to reducing the impact that stress has on you, is to become aware that stress may be a problem. Allowing time for yourself every day, even just 5 minutes can be beneficial to nurture your mind, body, and spirit. There are many ways reported that help relieves stress, and the best approach is one that fits you.
Physical exercise, whether it is yoga, bike riding, walking, or running, can be helpful with managing stress levels. When we exercise, our bodies release stress-relieving hormones.
Meditation is a great way to settle your mind and slowdown that worry wheel of thoughts. Meditation can be done quietly by focusing on your breath and releasing your thoughts or can be done while walking or running. The key to walking or running meditation is to do so with your eyes open and without listening to any electronic devices; just taking deep relaxing breaths and listening to the world around you.
Mindfulness an extremely popular term these days – is the act of being present at this moment, which of course is the only moment that really counts.
And most importantly of all is getting restful sleep. There is a lot of sleep research being published these days, and it is recommended that adults get closer to 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night in order to stay mentally sharp and to help the body reduce the physical effects of stress.
Finally, this is a link from the World Health Organization on stress management and mindfulness. I think you will find this informative on the act of mindfulness.
Finding balance takes a commitment to yourself. Go ahead your worth it. Thank you for reading, and if you would like more information please do not hesitate to reach out.