When you consider the many numbers of way humans die every year, would you be surprised that stress is associated with five of the most common ways we die? Cancer, heart disease, stroke, accidents, suicide. The big three (cancer, heart disease, and stroke) are the long-term effects of stress, but accidents and suicides are typically unsuccessfully dealt with stress responses. Stress makes us do things without thinking. (see infographic)
Life is full of daily stress. The stress of the to-do list, driving in traffic, work and family stress. If properly dealt with when you notice the stress symptoms coming on, it is actually a performance enhancer allowing you to focus, have the energy to move and get the things done you need to do. However, as stress becomes more acute, the mind and body start to become affected with emotional responses (anger, irritability, depression) digestive issues, decreased sex drive, and weight gain/diabetes. See more info for kinds of stress from the APA.org.
Stress Symptoms to look for: Butterflies in the stomach, profuse sweating, increase heart rate, breathing rate/blood pressure, headaches, circulation issues – cold hands/feet to name the most common signs. How do you immediately deal with these? Breathe – See below for the top ten list to reduce stress.
The following is a list of five ways to help alleviate stress. Note, these are not in any particular order, nor do you need to do only one, the more of these that you do the better off you will be. Fighting the battle of chronic stress has to be accomplished on multiple fronts and avoiding chronic stress is the ultimate goal. We cannot avoid stress as no one is immune to stress. Stress is all around us and can even be created in our own bodies by simply thinking and doing too much. Strive for as many of the following as possible. If you can go 5 for 5 (bold / italicized below), that is a goal to shoot for longevity and overall health and wellness:
1. Breathe well – We all breathe. But do we breathe well? Properly? If you are constantly stressed – likely not. Breathing is the number one tool our bodies can utilize to deal with stress before it becomes overwhelming and starts to affect our mood and physiology. Find time to relax and breathe deeply. Taking deep relaxing breaths will slow your daily stress and anxiety easily and naturally. It is the number one natural stress reliever and produce stress relieving hormones. Try Box Breathing: 4 seconds inhale – 4 seconds hold – 4 seconds exhale – 4 seconds hold. Repeat until you notice heart rate and other stress responses are back to normal.
2. Sleep well – If breathing is the number one immediate way to deal with stress, sleep is the number one way to recover from stress each day. The better you sleep, the more your body can recover from both the mental and physical stresses the mind and body undergo each day. See related article.
3. Eat well – Stress causes inflammation in our bodies which is very dangerous to our long-term health. We must eat to reduce inflammation with foods rich in vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and omega three fats. For instance – avoid sodas, high sugary foods, fried foods, processed meats, refined carbohydrates. Eat more natural foods such as tomatoes, olive oil, fruits, nuts, green leafy vegetables, and fish (salmon / tuna for instance).
4. Move and Be Still – Get some exercise and relax too – both are equally important DAILY. At some point in the day whether first thing in the morning or later in the day, do something besides sit and stress. Walk 10 minutes during breaks or after lunch. Go to the gym and do a quick circuit and follow it with some easy cardio. Breathe deeply during your exercise. Then later in the day or evening, find a place to be still. Unhook from all electronics and noise and breathe. Check out quick meditation practices or yoga stretches.
5. Smile and Laugh More – Laughing, smiling, hugging, having sex are all stress-relieving ways that are fun to do. Find people or things that make you smile and laugh like kids, puppies, pretty views, quick travel getaways even for a half day, and enjoy the day. This usually requires you to get out of the house where there is always something that needs to be done or take a day off from work – where there is work to always be done. Do on the weekend if you cannot take a day off of work - even if for a few minutes or hours.
Unfortunately, of the many ways to die, chronic stress is usually at the center of nearly all of them. Stress is associated with elevated inflammation, a rush of hormonal responses that are designed to keep up alive in the fight or flight mode. The only problem is this occurs when there is small stress and big stress. The body does not differentiate between the stress of not being able to pay a bill at the end of the month and when bullets are flying over your head. Stress is stress and hormonally speaking, the same thing (basically).
Learn what triggers you to be stressed and start thinking/feeling internally (internal awareness). The better you become at knowing why and when that rush of adrenaline hits you and being able to start reacting appropriately or breathing through it the better. Start adding in as many of the above ways to deal with stress as possible. The more the better.