The Dangerous, Lesser-known Effects Of Chronic Stress
Who isn’t stressed in today’s modern world? Stress from work, finances, interpersonal relationships…we are all bearing a lot of psychological weight in normal day-to-day life.
While stress can seem extremely common, it isn’t always healthy; when stress becomes chronic, we suffer real consequences long-term. At best, the feelings of stress are uncomfortable to bear. At its worst, it can be detrimental to our overall health.
But guess what? Stress doesn’t need to be a mainstay in your life.
However, if you want to better control stress, it does take consistent, mindful work. First, you need to understand why stress can be so damaging to your health. Then, it takes diligent efforts toward managing your stress more effectively. Let’s explore both in-depth.
The Physical Effect Of Stress
Think that stress is just a psychological problem? Think again.
Our bodies have an actual physical response to emotional and psychological stress, most commonly known as the “fight-or-flight” response. In times of perceived danger, our bodies release a set of hormones that increases our heart rate and blood pressure. While this protective response can be helpful for short stints, when we let it continue to run in the background, it ends up overloading and compromising our immune system.
Essentially, whether you’re frantically running away from an actual predator or managing the stress of negotiating bedtime with a cranky toddler, your fight-or-flight system kicks into high gear with consistent stress. And, learning to turn it off has proven to be more difficult than most would imagine.
Learning To Better Manage Stress
Not all stress is a bad thing. In fact, we need some stress to grow and evolve! A little external pressure can be motivating, but again, when stress becomes chronic in nature, it can be detrimental to our health. Learning to control stress more effectively can help us keep it at a manageable level. We will never be (or need to be) 100% stress-free, and that’s OK!
So how can you better manage your stress level?
Sleep It Off
It may sound basic, but sleep is the number one way to reduce stress and support your immune system, and it’s accessible to everyone…no fancy or expensive gadgets required! Yet, most adults don’t get anywhere near the amount of consistent quality sleep they need.
When we get enough quality sleep (7-9 hours per night for adults), our bodies use the time to regulate blood pressure related to stress. Alternately, when we don’t get enough sleep, infection-fighting antibodies decrease and we’re more likely to get sick after being exposed to illness.
Treat sleep like your superpower by adhering to a consistent sleep-and-wake schedule, reducing screen time prior to bed, and making your bedroom a welcome place to doze off. As you approach bedtime, encourage your body to wind down by engaging in gentle, relaxing activities, like reading a book, taking a warm shower or bath, or lighting a little incense or candles, if those are details you enjoy. Find what is most relaxing for you, and work it into your pre-bed routine.
Get Up And Move
Mood follows action. When we get up, move, and get our blood pumping, we’re literally boosting feel-good endorphins in our body.
Struggling with exercise motivation? Find an activity that you genuinely enjoy, not a regime that you dread. Are you a fan of nature? Go explore some new hiking trails. Looking for a high intensity workout? Try a kickboxing workout. Alternately, if you’re looking for something to help your overall flexibility, yoga may be the best fit for you.
Whatever it is, find your activity and go for it.
Take Some “Me” Time
In today’s “always-on” world, it can be difficult to truly disconnect and find alone time; however, alone time allows us to recharge emotionally-drained batteries. Don’t be afraid to set some boundaries and carve out time to decompress with just yourself. Build quiet time into your day to read a book, take a walk, meditate, or take a nap. You’ll thank yourself later.
Practicing meditation in as little as 10-minute increments daily can help to decrease cortisol, one of those stress-related hormones that can keep your body on high alert.
If you’ve never meditated before, we know that it can be a little intimidating. Fortunately, apps like Headspace and Calm are making the introduction to meditation more accessible than ever. If you’re a rookie meditator, these are great resources to help get you on your way.
Finding Strength In Seeking Help
Humans are pack animals– we’re used to carrying heavy loads and we need connection. Even if you’re an introvert, feeling connected with others plays a huge role in your overall wellness and ability to buffer stress effectively. If you’re feeling stressed, don’t knock the power of a simple coffee date with a close friend or family member to just talk. This small act can help ease a huge psychological burden; simply not feeling totally alone can be relieving in itself.
Remember too, reaching out for help is actually a sign of great strength. If you’re struggling with chronic feelings of stress, speaking with a licensed therapist can also provide significant mental health benefits. A counselor who is well-versed and trained in assisting others through difficult times may be just what you need to see real change in your day-to-day life.
Using Chiropractic Care To Treat Stress
Chiropractic care is a natural approach to supporting good overall health and wellness and can be especially beneficial in times of increased emotional stress. Between a combination of spinal and extremity adjustments, chiropractic care can help take the pressure off overly tight areas, thus helping your body communicate with its self-regulating processes more naturally. Adjustments also help to realign your body and keep your nervous system functioning properly. As a result, your immune system is better supported. Your mental and physical health are delicately intertwined, and chiropractic care can help to address both facets for better overall quality of life.
Don’t let stress consume you. Schedule an appointment online or call (256) 333-9429.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.