Good Stress vs Bad Stress + 7 tips to fight chronic stresses
As much as we may hate to hear it, stress is a natural protective mechanism that has been ingrained within our DNA from our homo sapiens ancestors over 200,000 years ago. It helps our bodies respond and adapt to any changes in our environment—whether we are being chased by a lion or preparing for a big presentation.
Stress can be physical, emotional, or mental. And it equips us for the so-called ‘fight or flight’ response in reaction to a challenge or threat. It gushes our blood with hormones (e.g., cortisol) to keep us energized, alert, and active to ultimately survive or avoid the danger.
Ultimately, there are two forms of stress; positive stress (called eustress) or negative stress (called distress).
Eustress is felt when you land a huge promotion at work or have just decided to accept an offer on a new home. It can be related to the feeling of excitement of ridding a roller-coaster or deciding to quit your day job on a whim to travel the world. Eustress is a euphoric stress and ultimately keeps us happy, healthy, motivated, and challenged. Eustress is short-term, often related to milestones, and it helps us grow and achieve our goals. Eustress can make us feel alive, invigorated, and highly energized.
On the other hand, distress can stir up feelings of anxiety, tension, worry, fear, depression, or irritability. Distress often coincides with challenges and problems in our lives. Family feuds, poor workplace environments, breakups, lack of employment, and legal issues are all examples of triggers that can cause continuous distress.
Distress and Your Health
The effects of chronic distress can disrupt nearly every system in your body and can cause harmful and sometimes life-threatening impacts on your health. It can severely damage your brain, heart, lungs, muscles, and immune system, to name a few. And it can also aggravate already present diseases.
Stress and Your Mental Health
Chronic stress is a significant cause of anxiety, depression, and can quickly lead to damaging behavioral changes like alcohol and drug abuse, overeating, and social withdrawal. It also significantly affects your sleep quality, often leading to insomnia.
Stress and Your Gut Health
Distress can cause digestive problems leading to stomach pain, indigestion, diarrhea or constipation, increased stomach acid secretion, and stomach ulcers (due to increased risk of H. Pylori infection). Sometimes, it can also result in stomach cancers. Chronic stress has even led some to develop diabetes due to stress hormones-induced persistent increase in blood glucose levels.
Stress and Your Heart Health
Stress hormones make your heart work harder. They increase your heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar, and can lead to the risk of stroke, heart attack, or heart disease.
Stress Increases Your Belly Fat
Obesity, or increased belly fat, is also a common outcome of prolonged stress. Persistently high blood glucose and insulin levels promote fat synthesis. It leads to increased fat around your belly, and in other body parts.
Stress Weakens Your Immune System
In the short term, stress stimulates your immune cells and helps avoid infections. But over a long time, it will weaken your immune system and makes you more prone to foreign invaders and pathogens. That’s why stressed people more often encounter the flu and common cold. It can also increase the time required to recover from an infection.
7 tips to fight chronic stresses
Studies show that we, as Americans are more stressed than ever. We often feel caught up in an endless cycle of increasing work and family responsibilities, the pressure to “keep up with the Jones,” and a feeling of “information overload” while being saturated in a political culture consumed with controversy.
It’s not easy to manage your stress, but it is essential to your long-term health. Our PeakLife360 team has put together these seven easy-to-follow tips to improve your quality of life and help elaterite chronic stress.
#1) Resolve Your Relationship Conflicts
Take time to be alone and identify the relationships within your life that cause you stress and anxiety. Be direct and honest with yourself. How do these relationships make you feel, and why? How can you take a proactive stance to resolve these conflicts or end the relationship?
#2) Make Time for Daily Exercise
Daily exercise is proven to help relieve mental and physical stress. It reduces stress hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol, while stimulating the production of endorphins. It improves the body’s ability to use oxygen and enhances blood flow. Even if you have not exercised in years, start with walking around your neighborhood for small amounts of time each day. Begin with 10 minutes, then work up to 15, 30, and so on.
#3) Start Making Lists
It is easy to become overwhelmed by all that we have to accomplish each day. Creating lists is a simple yet powerful tool to help avoid procrastination and give you back a sense of control. You can have a daily list, a weekly list, a monthly list, etc. And crossing items off your list can be a satisfying experience!
#4) Minimalize and Declutter Your Stuff
Many of us are plagued by the clutter around our homes and offices. We work hard to acquire money to buy stuff and eventually realize we don’t have places to store all our stuff. And we also often don’t even use all of the things we buy. Start with cleaning out your closet. Donate or sell clothing, shoes, or accessories that you have not worn in the last 6-months. Eventually, do the same with your kitchen cupboards, garage, and storage units. Recycle or throw away broken or damaged items. Get rid of things that people may have given you that hurt you or bring up bad memories. Once you’ve decluttered, you’ll immediately start to feel the positive benefits of how much easier it is to find and use your favorite items. It will also make it easier to keep your home tidy. You’ll feel happier and lighter!
#5) Start a Daily Journal Practice
Each night before bed, take time to write out any worries, emotions, and feelings you may have experienced that day. Once complete, write down one thing that you are grateful for that happened to you that day. Maybe it’s a phone call from a friend? Or a long hug from your partner when you got home from work or a smile from the gas station clerk. We can all think of at least one thing each day that we can be appreciative of. Journaling daily can improve brain function, enhance creativity, and also aids in our overall well-being.
#6) Work on Your Hobby or Learn Something New
If you already have a hobby or something that you enjoy doing, that’s great! Make sure you make time to pursue your hobby, whether that’s gardening, painting, craft making, or working on your car. Don’t have a hobby or can’t think of anything you enjoy doing? Then take some time to explore online education sites like iTunesU or Udemy. They have courses ranging from photography to ceramics. Poke around and take a class to expand your mind and see if any topic interests or excites you.
#7) Take a “Sick Day”
While we may not all be able to take a vacation from our jobs or household commitments; it is essential to know when to use a sick day for your mental health. Know that this day isn’t meant to escape from your problems, but a day that should be used to destress, reset, rest, and relax. One of the best activities to engage in when using a mental health day is to walk and connect with mother nature.