Working in the behavioral health sector for 20+ years, there one thing that was a common denominator with the clients in all of the different programs services provided - stress. Sometimes it was stress or anxiety of a specific event, and other times it was a general, free-floating kind of stress, that just sticks with people all the time.
Stress can become very uncomfortable, and that's when we make choices that aren't always good for us - so that we don't have to feel that stress. But as we learn sooner or later - pushing away, masking, or ignoring stress just doesn't work. It will find a way to leak out of us in unhealthy and unproductive ways.
Stress has a direct impact on your overall health that is undeniable, which is why it's important to relieve stress whenever possible. Stress not only affects your body directly, it can also lead to unhealthy habits and behaviors, many of which can increase your risk of heart and other health diseases. The term disease, when broken down is dis-ease. Meaning we are not “at ease”.
Our bodies releases adrenaline and cortisol when we are stressed. Adrenaline can raise your heart rate and blood pressure, which in turn can damage artery walls. Cortisol can increase coronary plaque accumulation, which can cause arterial blockages and lead to heart attacks. And while chronic stress does not directly cause high blood pressure, bad habits developed to cope with stress, such as comfort eating, smoking, excessive drinking and lack of time or energy for exercise, do.
Most people have a fairly good understanding of their own stress levels, and appropriate attention to monitoring and maintaining your emotional health can make stress easier to handle. Still, in a busy life, stress can sometimes get out of hand without you realizing it.
If you answer yes to a number of the following questions, you may be overstressed and may benefit from tips to manage stress.
Physical Signs of Stress
Do you feel constantly run down?
Chronic stress results in fatigue and lack of motivation or energy, and can disrupt sleep quality.
Do you often feel stomach or intestinal discomfort?
People experiencing high levels of stress are three times more likely to have stomach aches and bowel symptoms.
Do you regularly have a head, back or neck ache?
The effects of stress can prompt migraines.
Do your headaches get worse on the weekend?
The effects of stress can prompt migraines.
Do you have a sore jaw?
This could be a sign of teeth grinding during sleep, and jaw-clenching during the day, often worsened by stress.
Do you have inexplicable breakouts?
Stress increases inflammation and affects hormones, which can result in acne.
Is your hair falling out?'
Is your skin itchy?
Feeling anxious can aggravate eczema, psoriasis or dermatitis.
Do you have trouble concentrating?
Do you have trouble sleeping?
Do you have unusual dreams?
Dreams get increasingly positive as you sleep; when you’re stressed, you wake up more often, disrupting the positive trend. Poor sleep affects brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which help regulate emotional responses to events. If you are not sleeping well for days or weeks, your mental and physical health will suffer.
Do you often feel any of the following: anxious, angry, depressed, helpless, out of control, impatient, forgetful, hostile?
Are you easily irritated?
Chronic or acute stress affects hormones and the neurochemistry of the brain, which in turn produces changes in our ability to regulate our emotions. Negative or irrational emotional responses can increase as stress accumulates over time, or in response to difficult life events.
In Response to Your Everyday Life, Do You Often:
Eat to calm down?
Speak very fast?
Have more than 7 alcoholic beverages per week?
Drink a lot of coffee or caffeinated drinks?
Use nicotine in any form?
Rush without getting anything done?
Sleep too much or too little?
If you find yourself frequently behaving in any of these ways, stress- with a lack of healthy stress management techniques- may put you at greater risk for heart disease and negatively impact your overall health.
Ways to start reducing stress:
Focus your thinking on the positive.
Exercise to boost endorphins and relieve mental and physical tension.
Connect with people you care about and who make you happy.
Accept that there are parts of your life you cannot control. Let go.
Consider each request for your time or attention, and sometimes say no.
Make time for yourself. Put ‘me-time’ on your calendar.
Practice breathing techniques, yoga or other relaxing activities.
Work with a Life Coach who specializes in living a holistic and balanced lifestyle to help get you on track and keep you accountable.
Learning to prevent, identify and overcome stress are crucial to living a happy and fulfilling life. As a holistic life coach, I work one on one with my clients (in person if local, online if not) to help them cultivate ways of bringing a practical plan of self-care into their lives.
For more information on how to begin living YOUR BEST LIFE, visit www.nikkibuckstead.com