Stress is a body’s response to external threats—forcing our bodies into a mode where we fight or flee. When confronted with a stressor (a perceived threat), your hypothalamus releases adrenaline and cortisol. The release of these hormones causes your heart rate to spike, your respiration to increase, your blood pressure to rise, and muscles tense and wait for action—a response that allows the body to quickly react; whether your mind chooses to fight or flee, these reactions assist in achieving the desired response.
However, in a modern world where typical life-threatening dangers of the past (like encountering predators while out hunting) are no longer commonplace and are substituted with less life-threatening dangers that occur more often. Deadlines and work obligations, social pressures, mental workload, relationship issues, etc. are all forms of modern stressors. When we are faced with these issues, it is common for our bodies to respond with stress.
While stress is supposed to be an occasional response, the constant barrage of modern stressors keeps our bodies in a state of chronic stress where our heart rate is faster, blood pressure is up, muscles are tense, and our minds are on edge. As a result, our bodies are out of balance and the continual release of stress hormones take their toll on our bodies, especially on our Immune System.
The Immune System is an intricate system of organs, cells, hormones, bodily processes, and internal systems designed to help protect the body against illness, disease, and imbalance. When the body is exposed to constant stress, it creates an imbalance in bodily systems and function of the Immune System. In turn, the Immune System can fail to act properly, opening the body up to illness and disease.
Certain lifestyles, personalities, and life experiences may make an individual more susceptible to stressors—causing more frequent reactions and complicating their ability to manage stress in a healthier manner. Other factors that may put a person at risk for higher stress exposure may include:
For those with a higher stress exposure risk, learning stress management can become vital to overall health and wellness.
Cortisol is a multi-function hormone. Used during exposure to stressors to slow certain bodily functions that are unnecessary to the body’s fight-or-flight response. Some of those functions include the digestive system, cellular growth, reproductive systems, and immune response. The body also releases cortisol to regulate inflammation, but if cortisol is constantly diverted to manage stress response, inflammation can go unchecked—not to mention the long-term effect of bodily systems being affected by cortisol when under constant stress.
Adrenaline, the other major hormone released as a stress response, is the hormone responsible for your muscle, heart, and blood responses under stress. A chronic status of elevated blood pressure and faster heart rate can lead to a higher risk of heart disease and hypertension.
Other long-term effects of experiencing long-term stress can affect the body in multiple ways—mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Pre-existing conditions can be worsened or intensified when the body is constantly exposed to stress. The body is focused on handling stressors rather than managing disease and when under stress; the body diverts resources towards reacting to stress rather than to the Immune System and protecting the body from actual harm.
Learn Relaxation Techniques
Utilizing relaxation techniques can help the body transition more quickly from a stress response into a relaxed or normal status. You can find good tips and techniques described online or by contact Wholelistic Wellbeing for one-on-one coaching on how to best implement these techniques.
When you train yourself to be more mindful, or to “live in the moment”, your body can be less likely to react as quickly to stressors as it once did. Meditation can also be beneficial to fight against stress and pull the body out of stress.
Take Me Time
When you carve out time for yourself to do something you enjoy, you are carving out time to remove stress from your life and boost hormones that will help improve your mental health.
Cutting out stimulants—from caffeine, sugar, and nicotine to noise, technology, and busy surroundings can greatly relax the mind and body.
Stay Hydrated and Eat Healthy
A well-balanced diet and plenty of water help to fuel your body adequately and provide the nutrients necessary to combat the free radicals caused by stress.
Create Healthy Boundaries and Communicate
Stress is often caused by our surroundings. Set boundaries with anyone who may be causing you undue stress (like a boss who calls after work hours). Practice your communication skills and assertiveness to ensure your boundaries are clear and well-enforced. Be sure to also use those communication skills to ask for help or delegate tasks when necessary.