Stress Hides All Over Your Brain And Body Here’s How To Get Rid Of It
The best explanation of stress we’ve ever heard comes from Stanford neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D., the author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. “If you are a normal mammal,” he says, “stress is the 3 minutes of screaming terror on the savanna after which either it’s over with or you’re over with.”
If you’re a human mammal, however, stress comes from something more insidious than a toothy predator: anxiety triggered by the passive-aggressive boss, the 30-year mortgage, and the job of caring for children as well as the ill parent who believes General MacArthur wants him to lead a division into Pyongyang Province.
No wildebeest would understand these fears, but the perceived threats spark the same physiological survival responses that crocodile attacks do. Here’s where modern stress bites your body and how to fight back.
Chronic secretion of the stress hormone cortisol can trigger memory loss, depression, and three-bourbon lunches.
The Fix: Don’t be so damned conscientious at work. A Canadian study of 2,737 employees found that when people thought their poor job performance could seriously impact their coworkers, company, or environment, their job stress increased. Workers who didn’t see their jobs as careers were less likely to report stress. The lesson: Take a day off. The company won’t go under if you’re AWOL for 9 hours. Try booking a last-minute getaway if you must.
Your Nervous System
Quick Stress Relief At Home
Entertaining. Prevent pre-party jitters by playing lively music. Light candles. The flicker and scent will stimulate your senses. Wear clothes that make you feel relaxed and confident.
Kitchen. Ease kitchen stress by breathing in the scent of every ingredient. Delight in the delicate texture of an eggshell. Appreciate the weight of an onion.
Children and relationships. Prevent losing your cool during a spousal spat by squeezing the tips of your thumb and forefinger together. When your toddler has a tantrum, rub lotion into your hands and breathe in the scent.
Sleep. Too stressed to snooze? Try using a white noise machine for background sound or a humidifier with a diffuser for a light scent in the air.
Creating a sanctuary. If clutter is upsetting, spend 10 minutes each day to tidy. Display photos and images that make you feel happy. Throw open the curtains and let in natural light.
You Feel Tired All The Time
Feeling exhausted after a busy day is one thing. But feeling tired all the damn time, and for no reason at all? Well, that’s something else entirely. This form of unexplained sleepiness may be a sign of adrenal fatigue, which occurs when your adrenal glands become overtaxed with cortisol, Dr. Stephen Wander tells me. The constant stress can cause you to feel worn out, even when you really shouldn’t be that tired.
You May Like: Does Hair Fall Out From Stress
Whats Causing Your Stress The Common Culprits
My recent research shows the most common cause of stress is the feeling that there isnt enough time to get it all done, said Dr. Heidi Hanna, an integrative neuroscientist and executive director for the American Institute of Stress. People have more demand on their time and energy than they have capacity, and constant connection to technology aggravates the situation.
Research shows the most common cause of stress is the feeling that there isnt enough time to get it all done.
She explained that many people also fail to realize that internal stress has a tendency to make external circumstances much more difficult to deal with. For example, if youre not catching enough ZZZs, eating crummy food or living a sedentary life, your nervous system is more agitated and more likely to respond hastily to perceived stressors or threats in your environment.
With all the advances in technology, its easy to forget that were still dealing with a very primitive brain pattern that is hardwired to protect us at all costs, said Dr. Hanna. If we think we dont have enough of something whether its time, energy, money or other resources like social support the stress reaction system is activated.
Other common causes of stress, outside of not being able to get it all done, include our finances, health and relationships. These things tend to be at the forefront of our minds anyway, but are exacerbated when were facing an obstacle.
Quick Stress Relief On The Go
In traffic. Play music or listen to an audiobook. Take a different route to see something new. Do neck-rolls at stoplights. Sing in the car to stay awake and happy.
Public transportation. Take a break from reading, cell conversations, and music to tune into the sights and sounds around you. Try noticing something new, even if youre on the same old bus ride.
Running errands. Wear a special perfume or lotion so you can enjoy it while you rush from place to place. Carry a stress ball in your pocket. Take a mental snapshot or postcard at each destination.
Waiting in lines. Instead of worrying about time slipping away, focus on your breathing. People watch. Chat with the person ahead of you. Chew a stick of minty gum.
You May Like: How To Deal With Stress And Sadness
Releasing Tension In The Shoulders & Chest
The old saying, having the weight of the world on your shoulders, is apt here. When life gets hectic, physical tension and emotional irritability are often stored in the shoulder area: Our shoulders start rounding forward or lifting toward the ears, the head starts jutting forward, and we develop a compressed, defeated posture.
In this next video we give you some easy and effective ways to clear the shoulders, chest, and heart both physically and emotionally:
Heres How To Get Stress And Anxiety Hormones Out Of Your Body
This weeks guest post is brought to by author and certified nutritionist Terry Givens. Terry is the author of the book Reset Your Body which details how you can reverse years of unhealthy living. To learn more about Terry and his series of detoxes visit Resetyourbody.com. Paul Dooley
In America, we, as a society tend to downplay the physical impacts of stress and anxiety. THEY ARE REAL! And they manifest into physical ailments just as easily as bacteria and viruses manifest into ailments. Believe it.
Don’t Miss: How To Relieve Stress In My Shoulders And Neck
What To Do And A Few Things To Avoid
It might be tempting to combat stress by overeating or undereating, drinking alcohol or using tobacco. But doing any of those things provides temporary relief, at best and only adds to health problems in the long run.
Better options include exercise, deep breathing, meditation and yoga. Getting enough sleep and eating a healthy diet can also help your body deal with stress.
Exercise is an especially great way to reduce or eliminate stress, boost your energy levels and improve your mood not to mention your overall health, Dr. Campbell notes. And you dont have to run miles to get the benefits for your mind and body. You can start small by taking a daily walk.
Dont Run Yourself Ragged
Say no! If you are a people-pleaser it is very hard to say no when someone asks you to do something, even if your schedule is already overwhelming. I suggest that you always say let me get back to you on that then actually ask yourself:
a) Do I want to do it?
b) Do I have time to do it without making myself overwhelmed?
It is usually easier to say no when you are not face to face with someone.
You May Like: What Is Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome
How Much Stress Is Too Much
Because of the widespread damage stress can cause, its important to know your own limit. But just how much stress is too much differs from person to person. Some people seem to be able to roll with lifes punches, while others tend to crumble in the face of small obstacles or frustrations. Some people even thrive on the excitement of a high-stress lifestyle.
Factors that influence your stress tolerance level include:
Your support network. A strong network of supportive friends and family members is an enormous buffer against stress. When you have people you can count on, lifes pressures dont seem as overwhelming. On the flip side, the lonelier and more isolated you are, the greater your risk of succumbing to stress.
Your sense of control. If you have confidence in yourself and your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges, its easier to take stress in stride. On the other hand, if you believe that you have little control over your lifethat youre at the mercy of your environment and circumstancesstress is more likely to knock you off course.
Your attitude and outlook. The way you look at life and its inevitable challenges makes a huge difference in your ability to handle stress. If youre generally hopeful and optimistic, youll be less vulnerable. Stress-hardy people tend to embrace challenges, have a stronger sense of humor, believe in a higher purpose, and accept change as an inevitable part of life.
Breathing Exercise Reduces Stress
Even without formal meditation and controlled breathing, the gentle muscle stretching of yoga can reduce stress. “Full service” yoga is even better. But if that’s not your thing, simple breathing exercises can help by themselves. Rapid, shallow, erratic breathing is a common response to stress. Slow, deep, regular breathing is a sign of relaxation. You can learn to control your respirations so they mimic relaxation the effect, in fact, will be relaxing.
Here’s how deep breathing exercises work:
1. Breathe in slowly and deeply, pushing your stomach out so that your diaphragm is put to maximal use.
2. Hold your breath briefly.
3. Exhale slowly, thinking “relax.”
4. Repeat the entire sequence five to 10 times, concentrating on breathing deeply and slowly.
Deep breathing is easy to learn. You can do it at any time, in any place. You can use deep breathing to help dissipate stress as it occurs. Practice the routine in advance then use it when you need it most. If you find it helpful, consider repeating the exercise four to six times a day even on good days.
Recommended Reading: Can You Get Vertigo From Stress
Get A Hug From A Loved One
Physical touch can do a lot to relieve your stress. Hugging a loved one can be especially beneficial.
When you hug someone, oxytocin is released. Oxytocin is associated with higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress.
Oxytocin also causes a reduction in blood pressure. It reduces the stress hormone norepinephrine and can produce a sense of relaxation.
So don’t be afraid to ask a loved one for a hug if you need it. It’s good for both of you and it can be one of the simplest forms of stress relief available.
Tip : Recognize When Youre Stressed
It might seem obvious that youd know when youre stressed, but many of us spend so much time in a frazzled state that weve forgotten what it feels like when our nervous systems are in balance: when were calm yet still alert and focused. If this is you, you can recognize when youre stressed by listening to your body. When youre tired, your eyes feel heavy and you might rest your head on your hand. When youre happy, you laugh easily. And when youre stressed, your body lets you know that, too. Get in the habit of paying attention to your bodys clues.
Observe your muscles and insides. Are your muscles tense or sore? Is your stomach tight, cramped, or aching? Are your hands or jaw clenched?
Observe your breath. Is your breathing shallow? Place one hand on your belly, the other on your chest. Watch your hands rise and fall with each breath. Notice when you breathe fully or when you forget to breathe.
Recommended Reading: Does Stress Cause High Blood Pressure
Job Loss And Unemployment Stress
Losing a job is one of lifes most stressful experiences. Its normal to feel angry, hurt, or depressed, grieve for all that youve lost, or feel anxious about what the future holds. Job loss and unemployment involves a lot of change all at once, which can rock your sense of purpose and self-esteem. While the stress can seem overwhelming, there are many steps you can take to come out of this difficult period stronger, more resilient, and with a renewed sense of purpose.
Inflammation The Immune System And Physical Health
Despite the stress-mediated immunosuppressive effects reviewed above, stress has also been associated with exacerbations of autoimmune disease and other conditions in which excessive inflammation is a central feature, such as CHD . Evidence suggests that a chronically activated, dysregulated acute stress response is responsible for these associations. Recall that the acute stress response includes the activation and migration of cells of the innate immune system. This effect is mediated by proinflammatory cytokines. During periods of chronic stress, in the otherwise healthy individual, cortisol eventually suppresses proinflammatory cytokine production. But in individuals with autoimmune disease or CHD, prolonged stress can cause proinflammatory cytokine production to remain chronically activated, leading to an exacerbation of pathophysiology and symptomatology.
You May Like: How To Make Moving Less Stressful
Tip : Make Quick Stress Relief A Habit
Its not easy to remember to use your senses in the middle of a minior or not so minocrisis. At first, it will feel easier to just give into pressure and tense up. But with time, calling upon your senses will become second nature. Think of the process like learning to drive or play golf. You dont master the skill in one lesson you have to practice until it becomes second nature. Eventually youll feel like youre forgetting something if you dont tune into your body during challenging times. Heres how to make it habit:
Start small. Instead of testing your quick stress relief tools on a source of major stress, start with a predictable low-level source of stress, like cooking dinner at the end of a long day or sitting down to pay bills.
Identify and target. Think of just one low-level stressor that you know will occur several times a week, such as commuting. Vow to target that stressor with quick stress relief every time. After a few weeks, target a second stressor and so on.
Test-drive sensory input. If you are practicing quick stress relief on your commute to work, bring a scented handkerchief with you one day, try music another day, and try a movement the next day. Keep experimenting until you find a clear winner.
Have fun with the process. If something doesnt work, dont force it. Move on until you find what works best for you. It should be pleasurable and noticeably calming.
Variations In Stress Responses
Certain characteristics of a situation are associated with greater stress responses. These include the intensity or severity of the stressor and controllability of the stressor, as well as features that determine the nature of the cognitive responses or appraisals. Life event dimensions of loss, humiliation, and danger are related to the development of major depression and generalized anxiety . Factors associated with the development of symptoms of PTSD and mental health disorders include injury, damage to property, loss of resources, bereavement, and perceived life threat . Recovery from a stressor can also be affected by secondary traumatization . Other studies have found that multiple facets of stress that may work synergistically are more potent than a single facet for example, in the area of work stress, time pressure in combination with threat , or high demand in combination with low control .
Finally, human beings are resilient and in general are able to cope with adverse situations. A recent illustration is provided by a study of a nationally representative sample of Israelis after 19 months of ongoing exposure to the Palestinian intifada. Despite considerable distress, most Israelis reported adapting to the situation without substantial mental health symptoms or impairment .
Don’t Miss: How Does Stress Cause Heart Attack
Number : Create Cushions In Your Calendar
If youre reading this, you probably have a busy schedule, which is one contributor to stress. When you have a lot on your plate, you end up hurrying through the day and multitasking, which will only exacerbate stress levels.
Creating cushions in your schedule is a good tactic to reduce your risk for stress. Leave yourself enough time between getting from point A to point Bwhether getting to and from meetings, classes, or getting from home to work to dinner plansto help diffuse potential stressors that may arise that are out of your control. For example, if you know that you have to be on time to your 9 a.m. meeting and it takes you 20 minutes to get to work, leave yourself 30 so you dont have to rush or get stressed out if you hit traffic.
Stress Could Trigger Depression
When it comes to depression and stress, “it’s sometimes tough to tease out which is the chicken and which is the egg,” said Geyer. “But there’s clearly a strong link.”
Some research says that stress can suppress the growth of new neurons in the hippocampus. That’s a part of the brain that’s shown to be smaller in some depressed people. Geyer also noted that in some people, chronic inflammation appears to play a role in the onset of depression. And chronic inflammation, can be caused by chronic stress.
“Stress, or being stressed out, leads to behaviors and patterns that in turn can lead to a chronic stress burden and increase the risk of major depression,” Bruce McEwen author of The End of Stress as We Know It, told WebMD.
The bottom line is that depression can be caused by a combination of factors. Still, the National Institute of Mental Health does list stress as a risk factor for the disease.
Also Check: How Do I Know If My Cat Is Stressed