In today’s busy world, stress is treated like a badge of honor. We value work, but at what cost? In a world that doesn’t slow down, you might not realize that you are experiencing the side effects of stress. Many common physical and emotional issues are actually side effects of chronic stress, whether work-related stress or otherwise.
What is Stress?
Stress is the body’s natural response to change. This response may be physical, mental, emotional, or a combination of the three factors.
Not all stress is negative; in fact, in dangerous situations stress is necessary. When stress-related hormones flood the body, they help us make quick, possibly life-saving, decisions. In non-threatening situations, such as before a test or an interview, stress can sharpen the mind and keep you motivated.
Stress becomes an issue when it exists in excess. Chronic stress, or stress over long periods of time, can impose serious health consequences, both physically and mentally. The stress response is also known as “flight or fight,” and is activated in times of emergency. When stress continues without relief, the body experiences distress, which is a negative stress reaction.
The physical harms of stress
Your body is designed for stress. Stressful reactions, such as increased glucose levels or tense muscles, provide health benefits when responding to a threat. However, when stress continues without relief, these prolonged reactions become unmanageable and can take a toll on the body.
Common symptoms of stress include:
- Acid Reflux
- Muscle Tension
- Weakened Immune System
- Heart Issues
- Hypertension, heart attack, stroke
- Cold, sweaty palms
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Clenched jaw and teeth grinding
What stress does to our mental health
Stress, which is usually triggered by social, emotional and mental triggers, certainly takes a toll on mental health as well.
People who experience stress also frequently experience:
- Brain fog
- Panic attacks
- Diminished mood
Easy ways of decreasing stress in our bodies and minds
It’s easy to be discouraged by all of the negative effects that stress can impose on the body. Don’t worry! Here’s the good news: if we take the time, de-stressing is simple and inexpensive. Whether you are looking to stop stress eating, manage your stress and anxiety or simply unwind, you will find that relaxing may not be as out of reach as you think.
When we are stressed, our body reverts to shallow, short breaths, leaving us depleted of oxygen. Practicing deep breathing during stressful moments can improve our oxygen levels and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms us down.
Ever hear of the “runners’ high”? It’s more than just a myth.
Physical activity increases the body’s production of endorphins, which promote a happy, satisfied disposition. Exercise is also shown to improve sleep quality, which may be disrupted when experiencing chronic stress. Studies also show that exercising shortly after a stressful event can you emotionally combat stress–participants were found to experience less stress on days of exercise. Studies have also found that regular exercise promotes higher resilience to stress; if you exercise more, you are less likely to experience chronic stress when stressful situations do arise.
Getting outside is huge when it comes to stress reduction, especially if you spend most of your day working indoors. Sunlight is essential for the body to produce vitamin D, which helps to improve mood. Research shows that walking in nature, specifically forests, can decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol, lower heart rate, and lower blood pressure.
But you don’t even have to get out and find a forest. Another study found that just 20 minutes a day in any location where participants felt connected to nature was effective for lowering stress hormone levels.
Essential oils do more than just freshen up a room! They have long been known to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. In one study, using a lavender essential oil spray was found effective for reducing work-related stress among nurses.
Other stress-reducing essential oils include:
- Ylang Ylang
Essential oils can be applied for stress in many ways. You can use them topically when mixed in a carrier oil. Try using a diffuser, especially in your workplace or where you find you experience stress the most. Another great way to destress? Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to a bath. Not only will the oils soothe your mind, but baths and hot showers are a simple and effective way of easing muscle tension.
Listening to music is known to improve focus and decrease stress. This is especially true of classical music, as it forces our brain to slow down and focus. Music has been so integrated into our world that unfortunately in many cases it has simply become background noise. To truly use music as an effective tool, try listening to music intentionally, without doing anything else. Relax, and enjoy the melodies.
Meditation is an effective stress reducer, as it helps you look at situations in a new light, reducing negative emotions and encouraging patience, tolerance, and creativity.
Read a Book
Reading has been shown to be even more effective as a stress-reducing agent than music or a hot cup of tea. When you read, your body relaxes tense muscles as your heart rate lowers. Audiobooks prove suitable alternatives if you’re not into physical books, or if you’re looking to de-stress during transit.
A Mindful Snack
While emotional eating can become problematic when left unchecked, eating a mindful snack can help ease stress. Feeling a lack of nourishment can cause the body to go into stress. Step away from your work and eat mindfully, being sure to give your body what it needs.
Look Up From that Screen
There is a growing body of studies that identify a link between screen time and stress. Be sure to take breaks from your screen throughout the day, to give your eyes and mind the break they deserve.
Sometimes, our bodies overreact to what they perceive as threats, as in the case of chronic stress. When that happens, we owe it to ourselves to help the body and mind restore their balance.
Left unchecked, stress can wreak havoc on our productivity and compromise our confidence levels. Sometimes, the first step toward eliminating a stressed-out body is by satisfying stressed-out skin. That’s where our Mother of All Creams can help: this plant-based, intensive moisturizer replaces dried out, flaky skin with a happy, healthy contour. Its non-irritating, gentle formula helps strengthen your skin’s natural barrier.
Recognition: it’s the first step toward relaxation and away from stress. Adopting the incremental steps we outlined above – deep breathing, taking time away from work, immersing yourself in natural surroundings – will have you well on your way toward a calmer demeanor. Don’t allow stress to come between you and your own potential!