The American Psychological Association reports that nearly 50% of Americans believe their stress has increased during the past year. According to the Regus Group, China has the highest percent (86%) of stress in a workplace in the world. A Lifeline Australia’s survey indicates that more than 90% of Australians claim they are stressed in at least one important aspect of their life. As claimed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in the UK, work-related illness is a major cause of 13.7 million lost working days each year.
Clearly, stress is in every corner of the world and in every sphere of our life. Rarely is one immune to this potentially serious health and social problem. In order to understand how to build stress resilience, we need to understand what stress is doing to our body and what potential health consequences it can bring.
How chronic stress affects our body?
From our heart to chromosomes, chronic stress affects all organs and cells in the body. Adrenal glands are responsible for releasing stress hormones – adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine. If stress is activated too often, it can result in hypertension since adrenaline increases the heart rate and blood pressure. High levels of cortisol can lead to atherosclerosis. To sum up, a heart attack or stroke are the potential health consequences of chronic stress.
When you are stressed-out, the autonomic nervous system is activated, which then activates the intestinal nervous system. Anxiety can trigger a digestive imbalance, heartburn and even irritable bowel syndrome. The composition and function of the gut bacteria can be also changed due to stress. Additionally, cortisol is a reason behind weight gain as it increases appetite making you crave for carbohydrates and other energy-rich foods. Finally, high levels of cortisol can increase not only subcutaneous, but also visceral fat, which results in heart diseases, insulin resistance, or diabetes type 2.
Chronic stress can affect immune cells, making you more susceptible to illness. The more nervous and agitated you are, the slower the healing rate. Stress can affect the length of telomeres on chromosomes. Each time chromosomes divide, telomeres shorten. If telomeres become too short, a cell dies, meaning that if you want to live a longer life, you should learn about stress management techniques.
How to raise your stress tolerance?
You cannot avoid stress, but you can decrease your stress response in a variety of ways. Physical activity is one of the most effective ways to reduce the effects of stress. Social engagement creates the experience of safety and releases stress-reduction hormones. Even though you feel that you are caught in the hustle of life and that you cannot get out, try to make more time for yourself. Read a book, spend time in nature, listen to music, or watch a comedy. Consider visiting spiritual retreats as it offers all these positive changes combined.
Yoga and the psoas muscle
Stress is usually stored in the psoas muscle, located on the two sides of the lumbar spine. If you are dealing with stressors constantly and do not respond to them, stress hormones become stored in the body and the psoas muscle becomes chronically tightened. Yoga can help you stretch your psoas muscle. This ancient practice offers a great number of poses, which can help you on your road to a stress-free life.
Accepting is the first step
Stress is a physical and emotional response to a negative change in our life. The impossibility of accepting this negative change causes stress and anxiety. Controlling of the uncontrollable is fighting a losing battle. Stressors cannot be avoided and they cannot be changed. The only thing you can do in order to go on with your life is to accept stressors as they are and to try to see stress in a positive way.
Healthy comfort foods
Adopting a healthy lifestyle includes taking control of the nutrition plan, eliminating bad habits, such as cigarettes and alcohol and getting enough sleep. Instead of comfort food, choose other snacks which can calm you down. Berries, for instance, are a vitamin C-dense fruit and vitamin C is the one associated with successful fighting with stress. Next, a study by the researchers from the University Pennsylvania found that chamomile tea can decrease anxiety symptoms. Chocolate, garlic, asparagus, cashews, walnuts, oatmeal and oysters are all examples of healthy comfort foods.
From deep breathing to a Zen state of mind
Deep breathing techniques allow you to ease physical symptoms of stress. The relaxation response is followed by decreases in blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tensions and aches. Some certified techniques are quieting response, SKY and teddy bear breathing (for children). You can also opt for breathing tools, such as the EmWave and the StressEraser.
Stress is known as a silent killer. You are not aware, it is looming in the background, ready at every moment to have the final say in your life. Coping with stress means happier and longer life and that is what we all strive for.
Nicole is a lifestyle blogger passionate about travel and healthy living. She always seeks new adventures and enjoys sharing her experiences with others. In her free time, she likes to prepare healthy and delicious food for her friends. You can find her on Twitter and FB