Stress seems to be a daily occurrence in life for many people. The list of things to accomplish always seems to be longer than the number of hours in any given day. Medically speaking, stress is the reaction to a situation that arises in which the body goes into the hyper mode of a “fight or flight” response. This is the response that the body has always been able to naturally exhibit anytime a threat is perceived. With the advent of new technology and different types of worries and time-constraints, the body reacts as if the stress is, indeed, life-threatening.
When a fight or flight response occurs, heart rate increases, blood pressure increases, as well as other manifestations in the body. An upset stomach, trembling, and cold, sweating hands may happen, also. In addition, tense muscles, especially in the head, neck, and shoulder area, may frequently cause headaches in reaction to the response. Sometimes chest pain can also be a symptom from the tension. Often the response is likened to or considered a panic, or anxiety, attack because of the sudden onset of symptoms. If stress is not controlled, the healthy body can head toward many health problems, including heart disease.
Other signs that the body is under too much stress can be indigestion, sleep difficulties, exhaustion, depression, irritability, and increases or decreases in appetite. Weight gain, especially in the mid-section of the body, can be a continued health concern when cortisol is not balanced. One symptom that can often be overlooked is the affect stress has on the memory and on concentration. When one is stressed it can become difficult to “think straight” and make decisions that require full attention. Simply put, stress can affect and disturb many of the body’s mechanisms.
A steroid hormone, made naturally by the body, called cortisol is often referred to as the “stress hormone”. It helps the sympathetic nervous system to make provisions for energetic activity. Cortisol is made by the adrenal glands. They are situated on top of the kidneys. When stress is perceived, the hypothalamus at the base of the brain releases a signal that cause the adrenal glands to secrete the hormone cortisol, as well, as adrenaline. This is when the “fight or flight” response takes over to protect the body from the possibility it sees as harmful.
A large portion of the cells in the body have cortisol receptors. When the body is not stressed cortisol has many good effects on the body. It helps the brain properly use the glucose it receives. Cortisol helps the immune system to make important substances to help repair damaged tissue and tissues that have inflammation. It helps regulation of blood pressure, salt and water balances, and metabolism. It is very beneficial to the healthy formation of fetuses, as well as the growth process after birth to adulthood. Therefore, it is imperative to understand that a stable proportion of the hormone cortisol helps the body maintain good health.
There are many ways in which one can control the reaction to the stresses in life. One of the most effective control mechanisms the body has is use of the mind and the mental ability to cope. Another effective way to control stress comes through the physical activity of exercise. Eating healthy foods in the proper quantities can provide the necessary energy the body needs to function at its best. Finally, getting an essential amount of sleep is a key component to alleviating stress. All of these things combined are an excellent beginning for the balance of the cortisol hormone for a healthier body, lifestyle, and mentality.
When taking a closer look at the use of the mental capacity to control stress, there are numerous approaches to coping. One of the first coping mechanisms that can be useful is using relaxation techniques and therapies. It can be anything from using simple deep breathing, to expanding upon the deep breathing techniques implemented by picturing a color, a person, or a scene in your mind while closing your eyes. Then taking a slow deep breath in through the nose. Hold it for a second or two, then blow the breath out through the mouth, slowly and completely. Then repeating the process until a form of relaxation has been achieved. Meditative exercise such as yoga and tai chi are a deeper form of achieving relaxation of the mind and of the body. For some people the power of prayer can be a form of meditation that helps stress, also.
Other forms of coping with stress can be done by incorporating different activities into your life. Discovering a hobby is an excellent form of relaxation when one finds something truly enjoyable to learn or to practice. It is a worthwhile endeavor to make time for hobbies. Another worthwhile endeavor is to make an effort to volunteer time in a community service activity.
Maintaining family relationships and friendships are another key to successful ways of coping. Having a family member or friend to spend time with can improve your outlook on life and reduces stress immensely. A good talk with them, a fun activity to do, and a general good sense of humor can boost morale. Respectful relationships with friends and family are everlasting bonds that can never be broken. The notion that you always have someone to turn to in good times or in bad times can have a healthful effect upon the mind and body.
If one feels that some things are best not shared with someone they are close to, seeing a professional counselor or therapist can help guide the mind to a more relaxed state. Seeing a professional does not mean that one is weak, it is just another form of coping. The professionals are trained to give people many different exercises for the mind and body to try to help alleviate stress. There are even stress management classes that can be taken.
The final thoughts on helping with stresses are to positively prioritize the to-dos and goals in life. If something comes along that may build stress and it is something that a person is not required to do, don’t be afraid to say no to participating in that activity. Use the time given each day to accomplish what can be realistically done. Yet, realize that it is utterly impossible and very normal to not be able to do absolutely everything one sets out to do that day. Accountability is very important, yet always remember that things will happen to deter schedules, and the time constraints will always be there. Just know and remember that everyone lives with these same pressures. Choose to focus on the positive efforts that have been put forth.