How Stress Affects the Body
Stress…..what, exactly, is it? The definition in the Merriam Webster online dictionary is:
“a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc,
Something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety,
Physical force or pressure”
We will be talking about the mental tension/worry type of stress in this week’s post.
Stress is the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. Stress is a normal part of life and can be positive – keeping us alert and ready to avoid danger. Stress becomes negative when a person faces continuous challenges without relief or relaxation between challenges. As a result, the person becomes overworked and stress-related tension builds.
Stress that continues without relief can lead to a condition called distress – a negative stress reaction. Distress can lead to physical symptoms including headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain and problems sleeping and can also bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases.
Consider the following:
- Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
- Seventy-five percent to ninety percent of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
- Stress can plan a part in problems such a headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration $300 billion annually.
- The lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.
Based on the above information, there is a lot of suffering due to stress and money being spent because of it. Let me finish with a few stress management tips to help reduce both.
- Meditate: A few minutes per day can help ease anxiety. “Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress,” says psychologist Robbie Maller Hartman, PhD,
- Breathe Deeply: Take a 5-minute break and focus on your breathing. Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth.
Deep breathing counters the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.
3. Be Present: Slow Down! “Take 5 minutes and focus on only one behavior with awareness”, Judith Tutin, PhD says. Notice how the air feels on your face when you’re walking and how your feet feel hitting the ground. Enjoy the texture and taste of each bite of food. When you spend time in the moment and focus on your senses, you should feel less tense.
4. Reach Out: Your social network is one of your best tools for handling stress. Talk to others – preferably face to face, but at least on the phone. Share what’s going on in your life. You can get a fresh perspective while keeping strong connections.
5. Tune into Your Body: Mentally scan your body to get a sense of how stress affects it each day. Lie on your back, or sit with your feet on the floor. Start at your toes and work your way up to your scalp, noticing how your body feels. Simply be aware of places where you feel tight or loose without trying to change anything. For 1 to 2 minutes, imagine each deep breath flowing to that body part. Repeat this process as you move your focus up your body, paying close attention to sensations you feel in each body part.
In my next post I will continue with a few more tips for stress reduction as we head into the coming fall season and all the changes that brings into our lives.
Until then, to your good health,