Stress is defined as “a specific response by the body to a stimulus, as fear or pain, that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism.” Stress engages our sympathetic nervous system. Our hypothalamus sends the signal to release stress hormones. This is your “fight or flight” response that gets your body ready for battle, protecting your body to allowing you to react quickly.
When your body’s hypothalamus signals to release stress hormones when you are sitting in traffic, it creates a different impact than when you experience that fight or flight rush when you need to sprint to save a child from drowning. When you are seated in a car or in your office, you don’t have the same physical outlet that a true emergency may demand. The adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol don’t have an outlet.
There are a multitude of ways stress can manifest physically. Here are some of the main ways stress can show up in your body:
- increased depression
- rapid breathing
- suppressed immune system
- high blood pressure
- stomach ache
- fertility problems
- tense muscles
- low sex drive
Chronic long term stress has additional impacts on the body. They include:
- alcohol or drug abuse
- social withdrawal
- heart attack
The fight or flight response is designed to get us through a stressful time. You have a deadline to finish a project in a few hours. Your heart rate increases, more blood pulses through your body. You may feel hyper alert and filled with energy. The normal response to that is the deadline is met and your body begins to relax.
If you are feeling the physical impacts of stress, here are 7 simple steps you can take to reduce your response to stress:
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other mind altering drugs.
- Exercise. This can be a walk around the block or some sit ups. Move your body.
- Try relaxation techniques. You can practice by taking 10 slow, deep breaths.
- Rest. Try having a set bedtime and wake up time daily.
- Manage Your Time. There are some good time management tips in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
- Talk to someone. A friend, a counselor, a sponsor. Share what is bothering you.
- Take action. Find one baby step you can take towards a solution of a problem. Forward moment can relieve stress.
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