Stress is your bodies way of responding to any kind of threat or demand. Modern life is full of deadlines, frustrations, high demands, and crazy schedules. For the majority of people, stress is so common that it has become a way of life. Not all of it is bad though. If you experience stress within your natural comfort zone it can motivate you and help you perform under pressure. However, when the pressure becomes overwhelming its can impair your mood, your relationships and most importantly your health.
Here are just a few ways that negative stress effects your body.
- Increased cortisol production: Associated with weight gain (especially in the belly), inability to lose weight or gain muscle, premature aging.
- Decreased nutrient absorption: Due to decreased enzymatic production from the stomach, pancreas and liver, decreased bile flow from gall bladder, decreased oxygenation and gastrointestinal blood flow.
- Increased nutrient excretion: Urinary loss of calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, chromium, selenium, and various microminerals.
- Decrease in thyroid hormone: Can lead to a decrease in metabolic activity throughout the body.
- Increase in blood cholesterol: Stress by itself will raise LDL levels.
- Decrease in sex hormones: Can mean lower sex drive, low energy, decreased muscle mass.
- Increase in inflammation: The basis of many significant ailments, including brain and heart disease.
- Increase in insulin resistance: Chronic low-level stress may cause target cells to become unresponsive to insulin, a factor in diabetes, weight gain, heart disease and aging.
While unmanageable stress is undeniably harmful, you have more control than you think. You may feel like the stress in your life is out of your control, but you can always control the way you respond. There are healthy ways to cope with stress that will help you reduce its harmful effects, and prevent stress from escalating out of control.
Here are the top 6 ways to reduce stress.
- Conscious breathing. Take 10 slow deep breaths. You’re going to trick your central nervous system. The shortcut to turn off stress and activate a physiologic relaxation response is conscious breathing
- Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to manage stress. Start your day with a healthy breakfast, reduce your sugar intake, add plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and a lot of fresh water.
- Set aside relaxation time. There are many relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation that activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the fight or flight stress response.
- Get plenty of sleep. Feeling tired can escalate stress by causing you to think unreasonable and irrational.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine. These can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
- Get moving. Physical activity plays a major role in managing stress. Movement helps get your nervous system back into balance.