Minimizing the negative effects of stress in a chaotic world.
Stress, it’s pretty unavoidable these days. Whether it be testifying at your local city council, pressure from work, the anxiety of a first-date, or the latest catastrophe being amplified by the media, no matter the stressor or source, your body reacts indiscriminately.
A stressor will trigger the same set of over 1,400 reactions in our bodies involving the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. This activation off-sets the body’s natural state of balance where healing is prioritized known as homeostasis through the production and release of over 30 different hormones and neurotransmitters.
This biochemical cascade propels the body into a state more conducive to stress management, not health. In other words - when you’re stressed, healing is no longer a priority.
Nevertheless, entering this natural state of susceptibility has benefits and a purpose: it is a hard-wired feature that allows us to respond to stressors appropriately and without this capacity, we’d be unable to survive. These reactions help divert energy away from things like wound repair and growth, to functions that better suit us for stress like, elevating the heart and respiratory rates and diverting blood from digestive organs to skeletal muscles to better prepare the body for actions like fighting or fleeing. Once the stressor dissipates, baseline homeostasis can resume.
Don’t Underestimate the Health Risks of Chronic Stress
Since stress reactions are hard-wired and induce an environment where healing takes a back seat, when stress becomes chronic, or long-term, our overall health and well-being begins to suffer.
Stress hormones and neurotransmitters impact our mind, body, emotions, and behavior. This chronic imbalance of the mind, body and spirit leave us susceptible to disease as energy continues to be shunted away from vital maintenance functions like rest, repair and digestion. Stress also activates the inflammatory response in the body which is beneficial during acute episodes as it helps protect the body from infection. However, sustaining low-grade inflammation can have severe health consequences as the body becomes desensitized to its own feedback loops and inflammatory molecules accumulate. These same inflammatory molecules meant to protect us initially, become detrimental by leaving us hyper-inflamed, dysregulated and immunocompromised, setting the stage for disease.2
In fact, stress is considered the common risk factor for 75-90% of diseases, including those associated with the highest rates of mortality and morbidity.3 So, for the sake of your own health and well-being, it is worth taking time to minimize this underestimated killer.
Manage Stress and Take Control of Your Health
Avoiding stress in today's chaotic world is basically impossible so knowing how to properly manage the stress you are exposed to becomes critical. Fortunately, there are a myriad of proven methods that you can utilize to help combat the negative effects of stress on the body.
Below are 10 examples of common stress management techniques that have all been shown to be effective at combatting stress and improving overall health. Make an effort to incorporate daily rituals, techniques and exercises like these to help you minimize stress and promote a healthful life!
Exercise/Movement- can offer immediate relief in a stressful situation. Getting your blood moving releases endorphins that can improve your mood.
Writing/Journaling - Put down your worries and problems on paper in a poetic way, which sometimes things are better expressed through music.
Spending time with Loved Ones - Hanging out with loved ones lets you relax, forget your worries and have a good time. You can even talk about your stressors with them which can also help.
Deep/Diaphragmatic Breathing - Slow, deep breathing that maximizes the flattening of your diaphragm allows your lungs to fill completely providing the body with more oxygen to restore balance.
Sufficient Sleep - Getting quality sleep helps to combat fatigue, improve mood and increase energy.
Green Tea - Contains healthy antioxidants, as well as theanine- an amino acid that has calming and soothing effect on the nervous system.4
Eat a Diet Rich in Whole Foods - Stress levels and eating properly are closely related. Eating a diet rich in whole foods has shown to reduce the symptoms of stress.5
Music - Helps take your mind off of stressors and calm yourself as you focus on the music. Allows you to express your feelings through sound.
Get Involved - Find ways to be active in your community that break you away from everyday stressors and help create a local support network.
Limit Caffeine and Alcohol - Alcohol and caffeine can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks; opt for water instead.
De-Stress NOW with the Box Breathing Method
Some methods to destress improve your state almost immediately. One of these, is a simple technique commonly employed by the U.S. Navy Seals called the Box Breathing Method. One of the greatest aspects about of this technique, also known as the 4x4 or Square method, is it can be performed anywhere and at any time. Box breathing is effective at reducing stress, improving mood and emotional control.6
Take a few minutes now to improve your own state and promote health by performing a few rounds of effective box-breathing. Best positioning is to be comfortably seated, with your feet flat on the floor, back against a chair and eyes closed. Follow the steps below to properly perform the Box-Breathing Method:
To Health and Freedom.
1 Dispenza, J. (2014) You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter. Hay House, Inc.
2 Rohleder, N. (2019) Stress and inflammation – The need to address the gap in the transition between acute and chronic stress effects. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 105, 164-171. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306453018306954.
3 Liu Y-Z, Wang Y-X and Jiang C-L (2017) Inflammation: The Common Pathway of Stress-Related Diseases. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 11:316. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00316. Retrieved from: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00316/full
4 Cooper, R. (2012). Green tea and theanine: health benefits. Internation Journal of Food Science and Nutrition, 1:90-7. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2011.629180. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22039897/