Stress with a Capital S

I thought I would recap how to handle stress to honor April being Stress Awareness Month. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, stress does not merely afflict your mind; it can also affect you on a cellular level. Long-term stress can trip your body and mind into believing your not stressed at all and actually the only thing you did is to learned how to live in a perpetual state of stress. In fact, long-term stress can lead to a wide range of illnesses – from headaches to stomach disorders to depression – and can even increase the risk of serious conditions like stroke and heart disease.

The Fight or Flight Response

fight or flight

The sympathetic stress response is a survival mechanism that’s “hard-wired” into our nervous systems. This automatic response is necessary for mobilizing quick reflexes when there is imminent danger, such as swerving to avoid a car crash.

When you perceive a threat, stress hormones rush into your bloodstream—increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and glucose levels. Other hormones also suppress functions like digestion and the immune system, which is one of the reasons why chronic stress can leave you more vulnerable to illness.

Danger triggers the stress response – but, unfortunately, so can work conflicts, worry over debt, bad memories, or anxiety. Although one bad day at work won’t compromise your health, weeks or months of stress can dampen your immune response and raise your risk for disease.

How Stress Starts In Your Body

 anatomy-of-stress

Combat Your Stress

If you suffer from chronic stress and can’t influence or change the situation, then you’ll need to change your approach. To disengage from stressful situations try this tip. Yes we used this tip last week because a refresher is always nice.

The Neutral Technique from HeartMath:

  • Timeout: Take a timeout to disengage from your stressful thoughts and feelings. Actually say to yourself, “timeout,” then step back.
  • Heart-Focus: Shift your focus to the area around your heart in the center of your chest and feel your breath coming in through your heart and going out through your solar plexus, right below your heart.
  • Heart Breathing: Breathe slowly and gently, in and out – four or five seconds in, four or five seconds out. Remain in this neutral zone until your emotions ease and your perceptions relax.
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