With so much talk about stress, it seems to me that we’ve got so accustomed to it that we’ve started accepting it as a normal part of life. "It’s nothing, I’m just a bit stressed out" – I heard recently from someone very close to me.
It’s NOT nothing, and it’s NOT a normal part of life.
Yes, in some situations stress can be beneficial – after all, it’s how we react to changes and challenges, and it can help us push forward. But stress can be productive only when you know how to manage it and to restore the equilibrium.
But if you let it elevate and accumulate, if you’ve come to believe that you don’t need or don’t have time to relax , it can lead to serious physiological and physical damages.
Let’s not forget that stress accumulates in the body which means that:
Stress can bring out disease
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found that if there’s a mental illness running in a family, children exposed to chronic stress are more likely to develop the illness.
The same process happens with the adults who are prone to certain diseases: if they’re constantly under a lot of stress they can’t manage, these conditions then get the green light. Besides, stress has been linked to fatal accidents and suicides, and to such conditions as cancer, lung disease and cirrhosis of the liver.
You still think it’s no big deal?
How about your emotional health?
When overwhelmed with stress, people usually choose one of the following responses:
- Fight response – you’re overly emotional, heated and unable to sit still
- Flight response – you get withdrawn and depressed, you pull away and are low on energy (and low on emotions)
- Freeze response – you’re tense, you freeze under pressure, looking paralyzed but extremely agitated under the surface.
Now, whatever your reaction is, this reflects poorly on your emotional health. You’re not able to properly recognize the emotions you’re supposed to deal with, your reactions are hasty and instinctive, you become your own worst enemy and not to mention that this may easily alienate you from the people important to you.
With so many things going on inside you, it’s easy to start feeling lost and out of control. Left unmanaged, stress can spiral you into an emotional chaos.
If you’ve ever experienced it, you know how bad this can be.
Stress can make you fat, ruin your immune system and make you look older
People in stressful situations tend to eat 40% more food than normal. In more "normal“ circumstances, when you’re "only a bit stressed“, accumulated stress hormones can make you indulge in comfort eating (which often happens on autopilot – you don’t even realize that you’re opening the fridge and taking whatever’s in it).
Apart from that, stress is so demanding on the body that it consumes the energy your body normally uses to support your immune system. If you’ve ever noticed how easily you catch cold when you’re too stressed, that’s why.
That’s also why chronic stress is a major contributor to premature aging. What happens, biologically is that stress hormones affects our chromosomes so the new cells can’t grow as quickly – which means more wrinkles, weak muscles, poor eyesight...
Manage stress before it manages you!
It’s normal for stress levels to go up and down, it’s an instinctive reaction of the body.
But don’t let it creep up on you. Don’t get used to it, don’t accept it as something familiar. Get into the habit of relaxing regularly and releasing the stress out of your body. That’s something you can do for yourself consciously – and something you can do easily, if only you choose to!