Stress is a state of worry.
During this state your muscles may tense up and you may start to sweat.
Your heart may also start to race rapidly and it may be difficult to control breathing.
Stress is something that can occur to anyone on a day to day basis.
This state of worry is also more common among certain professions.
Among the most stressful jobs to have, these professions usually include doctors, lawyers, and emergency workers.
Individuals in these professions are therefore more at risk for the health conditions that can come with chronic stress.
To understand what it may be like to be in one of these professions, let’s for a second imagine you’re a person in an action movie.
You’re the cop involved in responding to a violent crime.
You’re right outside the house of the most dangerous criminal in town and his partners in crime, waiting for back up.
Any moment someone will come out and see you.
Those guys think of you as a threat because you are looking to stop them.
They’ll end up injuring you, unless you can figure out how to stop them, and keep yourself safe at the same time.
During this time, your muscles tense up, readying you to run at the slightest noise.
Your blood pulses in your veins, and your heart is a drum in your ears.
You’re panting like an animal hungry for the chase of food.
You are breathing heavy, like if you had asthma.
Your body dampens down everything else, attunes the entirety of its resources to a single purpose: getting you out of this alive.
You’re having trouble with maintaining focus and how to do so because the stress is distracting you.
Now, imagine feeling like this all the time.
The fight or flight response works great for the situation above, as this stress protects you.
Too much stress though may be detrimental to your overall wellbeing and functioning.
If you are showing a lot of the following symptoms, you may want to consider seeking out help:
- Feeling like you have zero energy or chronic fatigue
- No longer socializing
- Feeling under pressure
- Frequent headaches
Today I’ll share with you some of what I’ve learned on stress, and how to mitigate its harmful effects.
What Is Stress, And Why Can It Be Harmful?
The biological purpose of stress is to help an organism survive by forcing it to adapt quickly to any physical or environmental pressure.
Acute stress involves an urgent, quick danger that activates the fight or flight response of our sympathetic nervous system.
This system redirects our energy to the bodily systems most useful for fighting or escaping.
These systems are a part of the automatic nervous system.
What happens when that response gets overextended?
Chronic stress or acute stress disorder involves continuous activation of the fight or flight response.
That means physical changes meant to last a short time become overextended.
Things like an unhappy marriage, poverty, childhood trauma, major life events, or a high stress job can cause chronic stress.
Women are also at a higher risk for having an acute stress disorder.
Other factors that increase your risk of a stress disorder include:
- A family history
- Maintaining an unhealthy diet with lots of sugar
- Issues with serotonin production
- A thyroid disorder, like hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
- Other hormonal imbalances
But even smaller, daily stressors can lead to chronic stress.
The fight or flight system consists of hormones such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol.
The following are some symptoms of chronic stress:
- Elevated blood pressure and pulse rate
- Weakened immune system
- Muscle tension and chronic pain
- Leaky gut syndrome
- Heightened alertness which prevents sleep
- Quickened breath
These changes will raise your risk of stroke or heart attack.
Other hormones released, like norepinephrine, can affect the brain by acting like neurotransmitters.
This can cause mood swings and poor concentration, along with anxiety and depression.
RELATED: Natural Solutions For Anxiety
These are some of the most common symptoms people with chronic stress complain about:
What Are The Best Ways To Reduce Stress And Its Negative Effects?
If you have a bit of stress, it may be fine.
If you struggle with chronic stress, or an anxiety disorder that may benefit from natural solutions though, you may struggle with daily tasks.
Finding solutions to your issues may be something you aim to do to be able to function better.
The solutions you use may depend on your strengths, and the tasks that you believe would be best for you.
Below are some ways in which you can work to reduce your stress levels, and the negative effects the stress can have on your body.
If your stress is the result of work overload, it’s important to become more selective about your tasks.
Rate your tasks by importance and by benefits.
Which tasks take long, yet produce little utility?
Try to forfeit some of those tasks.
Not everything is important.
Which time consuming tasks can be delegated to another person or an affordable service that will do them for you?
For example, the app Fiverr allows you to hire people for miscellaneous tasks for just a few dollars.
Which tasks take long because of inadequate technology?
Do you spend a lot of time waiting for your old computer to process every task?
Consider replacing it.
Consider buying software that will automate some of your tasks; your time is a resource, and this change may pay off in the long term.
2. Cognitive Restructuring
Cognitive restructuring is a psychotherapeutic technique.
It involves learning to identify and refute maladaptive or irrational negative thoughts, and replace them with more realistic ones.
It can help you fight overly pessimistic expectations that lead to stress.
Take a look at a task or event that’s causing you anxiety.
This could include anxiety due to COVID-19, for example.
As you do, think about the following questions:
- What are the possibilities you fear?
- What is the likelihood of each actually occurring?
- Have those fear been substantiated in similar past situations?
- How horrible would it be if the thing you fear actually came true?
- Put your fear in perspective and how does it compare to other, more terrible possibilities?
- How well did you cope or recover after a past occasion where this fear was realized?
At the end of the exercise, prepare a coping statement that will include what you’ve learned.
Keep it with you as a note, and reread it whenever you become anxious about that task or event.
3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation(PMR) is a great method to relax the tension in your body.
This is how it works:
- Lie on your back on a surface such as a bed or a carpet, and stretch out until you’re comfortable
- Take a breath, and tense one muscle group for 4-10 seconds (you can start anywhere and the tension should be strong but not painful)
- Release the air, then relax the muscle group you were tensing all at once
- Wait 10-20 seconds before continuing to another muscle group
- In the meanwhile, pay attention to the difference in how the first muscle group feels
- After you’re done working on all the muscle groups, count backwards from 5-1 to return your attention to the present
It can help reduce stress and the insomnia associated with it.
It produces endorphins which act as natural pain killers, and lift your mood.
It also serves as a distraction from worries, especially if you exercise mindfully.
In addition, it helps battle the effects of stress on sleep.
You can exercise with a friend to reap the benefits of socializing on mood as well.
Examples of exercises you can do to reduce stress include yoga, for a more relaxing experience, and running if you prefer to be more fast paced.
With stress, it can help calm the nervous system and reduce the stress producing hormone cortisol.
There are assumptions that this treatment may be painful among other myths about acupuncture.
This in itself may cause you anxiety and stress and prevent you from seeking treatment.
If it does, the article above will debunk some of the myths, so you can seek acupuncture for your stress, if it is right for you.
Book Your Appointment With The Mindful Healing Clinic Today
Do you suspect the symptoms you’re experiencing might be stress-related?
Contact me, Dr. Maria Cavallazzi, to book your FREE optimal health consultation here at the Mindful Healing Clinic in Mississauga.
I can help you figure out if you’re suffering from chronic stress.
Being hard working doesn’t have to come at the expense of your health.
With naturopathy, I can teach you different interventions and create an individualized plan that’ll help protect you from the harmful effects stress.
Until next time,
Dr. Maria Cavallazzi is a medical doctor from Colombia where she practiced as a family physician for 8 years until she moved to Canada 16 years ago and became a naturopathic doctor in Mississauga.