Hello lovely you,
Yesterday, I was sitting in some pretty horrendous traffic because of construction. We must have sat there for close to twenty minutes without anyone moving. Our side wasn’t moving, opposing traffic wasn’t moving. I knew I was going to be late to my appointment and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it except call ahead and apologize.
Now, there was a time in my life where a situation like this would have sent me straight through the roof of my car. I mean, after ten minutes of trying to be patient, I would have eventually snapped and started huffing and puffing and letting loose some not-so-nice words!
And what would this have accomplished? It wouldn’t have moved the traffic or given my car wings, and it wouldn’t have slowed down time. What it would have done is sent my heart racing and my blood pressure soaring.
But I didn’t let it get that far. I used some techniques I’ve learned and I will share with you to keep myself nice and calm.
How Stress is Making Us Sick
Stress doesn’t just happen in our mind, it effects just about every part of our body. In fact, this is how our bodies were designed. When we perceive a threat in the environment, our body instantly releases a surge of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol thanks to our natural “fight or flight” response.
This hormonal cocktail has helped keep the human race alive by making us very alert and elevating our heart rate to get that blood pumping to our arms and legs. This helps us fight off attackers and run from hungry bears. Fight or flight.
The problem is, modern day stress isn’t what it used to be. Most of us aren’t fighting off attackers or running from things that want to eat us. We’re trying to figure out how to pay our mortgage, get along with our spouses and send our kids to private school. While our ancestors had short bursts of stress (sprints), most of us deal with chronic stress (marathons).
But our bodies weren’t designed to constantly pump out these fight or flight hormones. It’s not healthy to have adrenaline, cortisol and other hormones pulsing through our veins all day every day.
Here are just some of the ways stress is making us all sick:
When you’re on high alert because of danger, how likely are you to get a restful night’s sleep? Not very. Sleep deprivation not only makes us feel miserable, it can also lead to an increased risk for developing obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Stress hormones constrict your blood vessels, which can raise your blood pressure.
Weakened Immune System
Long-term stress weakens your immune system leaving you vulnerable to infections, illness, and even diseases like cancer.
Risk of Heart Attack
Your heart was not designed to pump so hard all of that time! Eventually all of this fast pumping wears down your heart and leaves you susceptible for a heart attack.
Chronic stress upsets your digestive system causing heart burn, nausea, and diarrhea.
Chronic stress wears you down emotionally until you feel absolutely depressed.
4 Healthy Ways to Manage Stress
After I had been diagnosed with cancer, I learned through intensive research just how our emotions affected our physical health. At the time I had been dealing with the sudden and unexpected death of my father, and I was also in a highly dysfunctional relationship. I knew I needed to find ways to fight the affects of stress in my life. The following were the techniques I used, and still use, to keep myself calm, even in incredibly stressful times.
I have been telling people to breathe for years, but few have really listened to me. I get it, that word is thrown around when people are freaking out and it has lost its real context. The thing is, taking slow, deep breaths actually has a physical effect on your body. Your body immediately calms down and believes the threat or danger is gone. Try it the next time you start to feel stressed. Just take 3 slooooow, deep breaths and see if you don’t instantly feel disarmed.
Mindful meditation has been PROVEN to combat the effects of stress. Meditation is what helped me to finally get quiet and in-tune with myself. Through meditation, I not only reduced the effects of stress in my life but also became aware of my own power.
If you’ve never meditated before, start with just five minutes a day and slowly try to work your way up to 20 minutes. There are many different ways to try mindful meditation so experiment to see what works best for you.
Stress primes your muscles for action and all of those fight or flight chemicals have to be burned off. Exercise is the best way to actually get rid of the hormones that are causing you harm. As a bonus, exercise releases feel good hormones that make you feel calm and happy. If your doctor has said it’s okay to exercise, I encourage you to get some each day. Even just walking around your neighborhood will help immensely.
- Count Your Blessings
A great remedy for stress is to think of all of the wonderful people and things in your life that give you joy. Much like you can’t juggle and do a handstand at the same time, you can’t feel stress and joy at the same time. So, when you are feeling stressed out and you can feel your blood pressure begin to rise, stop, take 3 slow, deep breaths and think about something that makes you happy.
Stress sucks big time, but unfortunately it is a part of life. If you want to heal and stay healthy, you are going to have to figure out ways to deal with it. Try the 4 tips I suggested. They worked for me and if they worked for me, a former stressaholic, they can work for everyone!