Our bodies are designed to protect us against stress. Originally, it was due to the threats our ancestors used to face during caveman times. At that time, they were met with predators and other aggressors that ignited that stress response, fight or flight. Nowadays, we are confronted with a completely different aspect of demands that cause this response as well. Although we are not dealing with life-threatening situations as they did in the past, our bodies do not know the difference.
Stressful situations like having a huge workload, paying bills, or taking care of your family are all examples of the minor hassles that our bodies define as threats. However, there is a way to combat this, but first, we need to know how our bodies operate under stress naturally.
When your brain is signaled by a perceived threat, a tiny region in your brain’s base called the hypothalamus, prompts your body’s alarm system to go off. When this happens a combination of bodily processes happens. Your body then releases a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.
The adrenaline then causes your heart rate to increase and blood pressure to elevate. Cortisol, the stress hormone, cues a boost of sugar, or glucose, into the bloodstream. This hormone also curbs any functions that may be nonessential in a fight-or-flight situation. It alters the immune system and suppresses the digestive system, reproductive system, and growth processes.
Usually, the body’s stress response is situational and once the perceived threat has passed, hormone levels should return to normal. Adrenaline and cortisol levels drop, your heart rate and blood pressure regulate and other bodily processes begin to restore. However, when your body is constantly under stress and feels under attack it can increase your risk of developing many health concerns, such as…
Muscle tension and pain
Heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, or stroke
That is why it is crucial to adopt healthy strategies to cope with life stressors. Stressful events are inevitable and you may not be able to change your circumstances, however, you can learn how to manage the way these events impact you. Here are a few ways you can cope with stress on a daily basis…
Developing a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep.
Try yoga, meditation, deep breathing, or any mindful activity to ground yourself.
Start a journal to let out your thoughts and document what you are grateful for.
Cultivating healthy relationships with family or friends that you trust.
Create a clean and organized environment at home.
Seek professional counseling to learn how to develop techniques specifically for you.
In addition, I recommend avoiding unhealthy habits as much as possible like excessive alcohol and tobacco use. This also includes excessive eating.
The reward for learning how to manage stress will bring you peace of mind, improve your overall quality of life, and reduce your risk of developing unwanted health conditions.