I’m SO STRESSED OUT!
Stress is inevitable. No one is truly stress free. Everyday things make us feel stressed – getting to work or school on time, waiting on an important phone call, worrying about what to do or what’s next. These past few months have been stressful for all of us with everything going on around the world – let alone everything we are juggling at home! Stress is always present in our lives in some variation but it’s how we manage this stress — that’s the key!
Feeling stressed shows up in different ways. Some people may experience things like feeling overwhelmed, constant worrying, trouble sleeping, eating less or more, even feeling physical aches and pains. Like feeling insecure when your coworker, who is “so stressed” is planning martini night after work and talking about her new vacation, and you struggle with getting out of bed because you’re too stressed to face the day. This doesn’t mean that you’re weaker than others, it just shows that stress is a spectrum–the good news is it can be handled.
What Exactly Is Stress?
Maybe you’ve heard of the flight-or-fight response (or its often forgotten third component, freeze). If you haven’t, or need a refresher, that’s okay: we’ll go over it.
Evolution and Flight-or-Fight
The flight-or-fight response is how our body physiologically responds to threats. This is an evolutionary trait used to keep us safe when humans were not the highest on the food chain.
This stress response consists of our bodies being flooded with “hormones either prompting us to stay and fight or run away and flee,” according to psychologist, Carolyn Fisher PhD. “During the response, all bodily systems are working to keep us alive in what we perceive as a dangerous situation.” You may be wondering: how does all this happen? How do hormones play a part in my stress? Well, let’s take a look!
Say you’re walking in nature and you see a bear (or if you want to look at the origins of this behavior, maybe a saber-tooth tiger). The animal notices you, and he looks mad. This is the moment your stress response has been waiting for! Your body will get into protection mode and experience the following:
Your heart rate will increase, to produce more blood to feed your major muscle groups.
Your body is trying to take in as much oxygen as possible, both for its nutrients and to prepare your body for physical exertion. Either you’ll be running away, or fighting for your life.
Temperature Changes In The Body
Your blood is being sent to the major muscle groups–the ones you need to run and fight. So, the parts of you receiving blood will feel warm, while other parts might feel cold and clammy.
Shaking Or Tenseness
Your body is getting ready to move. You’ve been receiving extra energy to get you prepared for sudden movement, and if you aren’t moving, you’ll need to control it somehow.
Hyperfocus Or Lack Of Focus
Your body is focusing on the danger and possible avenues of escape. That can be either places to run to, or weak spots on your opponent. Everything else fades
All these responses are designed to keep you alive. (1) Your natural instinct is not to get attached by that bear…or that saber-toothed tiger.
Why Do I Feel Stress?
Maybe you don’t spend a lot of time around lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!). But there are also more modern things that stress is beneficial for. Stress can help you with physical dangers–like standing in the way of a speeding car, slamming on the brakes to avoid an accident, or when walking in dangerous areas at night. But, to your body, emotional stress and physical stress are the same. So, if stress has ever motivated you to study hard for an exam or prepare to meet your partner’s parents, you can thank the flight-or-fight response. (2)
So When Is Stress A Problem?
There are two types of stress–or, rather, there are two lengths of stress.
All the situations we’ve described are examples of acute stress. It’s when there’s one situation that you need to get through, and your stress response can help you overcome it. It’s temporary and short-term, and you recover from it relatively quickly.
Chronic stress is when stress becomes a problem. It results when we have a situation that cannot be resolved quickly. Maybe it’s a job where there is always more work. Maybe it’s a relationship plagued by fighting. Maybe it is a class where you can’t understand the material, no matter how hard you try. These are stressors that last weeks or months, or have no definitive end in sight. When your environment is causing you this sort of long-term stress, your body is flooded with these fight-or-flight hormones all the time – and that is a big problem! (3)
What Health Problems Can Stress Cause?
Stress shows up in many different forms. In some cases the symptom can mimic other ailments. Because of this we may not even realize that our bodies are trying to tell us that we are stressed.
- Loss of sexual function
- Exhaustion and difficulty sleeping
- Muscle pain or stiffness
- Stomach Aches
- Forgetfulness or lack of concentration
- Skin problems
- Worsening of other health conditions
- Heart disease
What Can We Do to Manage Our Stress?
Ultimately, if your stress levels are high enough, you should probably consult with a doctor. But, if you already are and need some extra help, or if your stress levels are moderate, here are some useful things to try!
One of the best ways to manage stress is to exercise. It doesn’t mean hours in the gym either. Taking a walk, being outside in nature can make a big difference when feeling stress. Moving your body causes the release of chemicals that improve your mood and help you feel more relaxed – helping to deal with stress and your risk of depression.
Making sure you eat a balanced diet of lean protein, fruits and vegetables will keep your body going and mind in check. Psychologist and author G.Frank Lawlis studied fruits and stress. “What we found in the research is that strawberries increase pain endorphins, especially when you eat the leaves along with the berry,” he says. “And bananas contain tryptophan, which promotes muscle relaxation.” All these will help battle those flight-or-fight hormones. (4)
Taking supplements like AgelessLX can also give additional support in addition to making healthy lifestyle changes. AgelessLX key ingredient, Calcium HMB has been clinically proven to help women retain their muscle mass as they age and even build more muscle (without having to spend hours in the gym!) AgelessLX has helped thousands of women looking to stay or get more fit, burn more fat and boost their energy. Overall giving you the boost of confidence to overcome any stress that comes your way!
Enjoy the moment as you sit still and just breathe. Take a few deep breaths – inhaling through your nose and slowly exhale through your mouth. It’s so important to just be with your thoughts, to calm the mind so you can refocus and move forward.
Using a diffuser is a great way to bring in pleasant aromas into the home. “When you smell scents like lavender, lilac, honeysuckle, or cedar, you change your brain chemistry,” says Lawlis. It can easily change your mental state, especially when combined with breathing techniques, he explains.(4)
Meditation is another great way to calm your mind and body. There are so many great guided meditation apps that you can have on your phone or link to your smart speaker at home. Even just having nature sounds as you do breathing exercises can really make a difference.
Listen To Music
“Something about rhythm trains the brain toward lower stress levels and balances the various parts of the brain that seem to be excited during a stress response,” says Lawlis. And it doesn’t have to be soft spa music either! Playing a favorite song or type of music automatically changes and lifts your mood.
Whether physically or mentally, just getting up and leaving a situation can really help reduce stress. Psychologist Ronald Nathan says that a “mini vacation in your mind is a very good way to relieve or manage stress,” he says. Similarly, “If you look through a window at a far-distant view for a moment, away from the problem that’s producing the stress, the eyes relax,” says Nathan And if the eyes relax, the tendency is for you to do the same.” (4)
Watch a Video Podcast!
The Evolving Ageless video podcast offers many wonderful and insightful topics including experts in the field of managing stress! Check these out:
Every week the Evolving Ageless video podcast takes you into the minds and behind the scenes of doctors, clinicians and many other experts in the health and beauty field – covering a variety of topics specifically for women!
Stress is inevitable. How you manage that stress will determine how it will affect your situation and as we learned, your overall health. Make sure you make time for yourself.💖
Remember “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”—Charles R. Swindoll