Are You Dealing With Stress Or Avoiding It?
I often hear others say:
- Man this stress is killing me!
- If I just didn’t have all this stress in my life, I’d be fine.
- I’m so stressed out, I can’t get anything done.
- Everyone else is stressing me out!
Why we stress
Stress is our body's natural reaction to threat or challenge in our life. Our body, particularly the sympathetic nervous system, begins to produce hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline to activate our senses telling us we need to “fight” or “flight.”
You know when it happens: your heart starts to beat faster, your muscles begin to tense us, you feel sweaty, and more alert.
The stress response gives us strength and endurance (that's why athletes produce adrenaline) to escape a potentially dangerous event. Evolutionarily, this automatic response has saved our lives. If a bear was about to attack us and our body didn’t give us signals to get outta there, we’d be eaten alive.
Of course we aren’t being attacked by bears much in today’s society, but we do have challenging events and difficult experiences, so here we are with all this cortisol and adrenaline running throughout bodies as soon as a stressful event occurs.
So it’s not stress that’s killing us, it’s what we do with stress that's killing us.
Common unhealthy ways we avoid stress
- Act out in anger
- Neglect loved ones
- Become reckless with money
- Ignore it
- Take pills
These are common because society sends us the message that these will “make us feel better,” and while I agree, they sure can make us feel great .... for the moment that is. Stress will catch up with us. Lets talk about some ways to face stress head on, get to the root of it, and prevent it from harming the life we love.
Healthy ways to face stress head on
Simple as it sounds, oxygen actually dissipates the excess cortisol running through our system.
2. Listen to music
Music triggers an emotional state in us depending on what memory or sensation we attach to it. Try listening to music that is soothing and peaceful for you.
Spend time with people who bring joy and humor into your life. Laughter is contagious!
4. Roll it out
Stress gets lodged deep into our fascia, which turns into rough scar tissue welcoming pain and disease to the body. Pick up a foam roller at your local sports store, your body will thank you.
5. Seek touch
Snuggle up with a loved one, practice gentle massage, or just hold hands. Allow yourself to feel good.
Calm your nerves by adding a few drops of lavender or lemon balm to your bath water or pillow case. Essential oils have proven healing qualities.
7. Get in touch with nature
Feel the grass between your toes, pick flowers, or breathe fresh air. Nature is very soothing and can diffuse tension.
The reason these techniques are effective is in part because they keep us in the present moment. They allow us to focus on what happening now rather keep us ruminating on recent, stressful events. If we can practice these regularly, even when we aren’t feeling stressed, we begin to activate our parasympathetic nervous system which counterbalances the sympathetic nervous system (remember that’s the flight or flight response) because it’s job is to create homeostasis in the body. So we’ll be better equipped to face stress when it comes up rather than trying to avoid it.
Ready to learn more about what anxiety, brain health, and your diet all have in common? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman.