We aren’t often on the lookout for charging elephants or attacking sabre-toothed tigers. If we go back to a time when these scenarios would have occurred, stress was a rather handy response. When danger appears, our body starts a chain of chemical reactions that induce a fight or flight response. In other words, it primes your body to turn and fight an oncoming threat, or run away as fast as you can. Pretty handy.
In modern society, we don’t suffer this physical threat from wild animals, but our stress is caused by physiological and social cues. Things such as busy work schedule, divorce, illness, money worries. All of these trigger that same innate stress response, however, the stress lasts for a much longer period of time. This fight or flight response causes cortisol, the stress hormone, to surge into our bloodstream until the threat has left. With chronic stress, this can be a rather long time.
This can have vastly negative effects on our health and well-being. You may experience headaches, insomnia, low energy or feelings of being overwhelmed. It can also negatively affect your waistline. When cortisol levels are fluctuating, it causes muscle tissue to breakdown and body fat levels to increase. What is something that most of us do as soon as we feel stressed? We reach for ‘unhealthy’ food or drinks. This only intensifies the issue. If you have a lower amount of muscle tissue, you are then more likely to put further weight on and find it more difficult to lose it in the future.
Unfortunately I can’t get to the root of everyone’s stress within this one post. But what can we do to help manage stress levels?
- Exercise. Pick whatever you enjoy. Whether it is regular walk with the dog, jogging or spinning classes. If you enjoy it, you are more likely to stick at it.
- Eat a healthy diet. Eat fresh foods that will provide nourishment to your body. Well-nourished bodies can manage stress more effectively, so remember to eat mindfully.
- Ensure you get adequate sleep. Before bed avoid using any light-emitting devices such as smartphones, tablets and laptops. They stimulate cortisol to be secreted and can prevent you getting enough deep sleep.
- Make time for relaxation. Meet with friends. Take a hot both with some scented candles. Get a massage. Whatever it is that relaxes you, go for it! Make time for you. Your body will thank you for it.