Chronic Stress Sets the Stage for Disease
Whenever we are faced with a threat, either internal or external, perceived or actual, the body or mind becomes imbalanced, and we are considered under stress. Generally, our bodies exist in a balanced, maintenance state, but when stressed, our bodies activate a cascade of over 1400 systemic reactions involving the nervous, endocrine and immune systems. This activation propels our system into a state best suited to respond to a stressor.
Symptoms from Stress
Once activated, potent stress hormones are released that impact our mind, body, emotions and behavior.
These stress hormones result in suppression of the rest and digest functions of our nervous system, and activation of the fight or flight mechanisms. Our stress response best prepares our mind and body to react to a stressor, such as, increasing heartrate, and shunting blood from your organs to the body’s limbs to effectively run from a physical threat. Once the threat has passed, stress hormone levels drop, and the body resumes its normal baseline functions.
Fight Or Flight
Acute Stress Response
The problem with stress comes with chronic or long-term exposure of our bodies and minds to stress hormones and their impacts. Since we are hard-wired to respond to stress in a similar way, regardless of the severity of the threat, the impacts of the stress of an impending lion attack, as faced by our ancestors, has the same effects on our system as the stressors that come with modern life. Some common examples are bills, relationships, and work.
Chronic exposure to stress hormones creates a state of imbalance, which can make us significantly more prone to disease because they suppress vital bodily functions that are responsible for general maintenance and immunity.
A lot of evidence shows that stress activates the inflammatory response in the body which is beneficial during acute episodes as it helps protect the body from infection. However, over extended periods of stress activation, the balance that is typically naturally maintained by the body begins to fail. The feedback loops that exist to help limit inflammatory molecules begin to desensitize, causing their accumulation in the body. These same inflammatory molecules meant to protect us initially, become detrimental and make the body prone to chronic disease.
With chronic activation of the stress response, our bodies become hyper-inflamed, dysregulated and immunocompromised, setting the stage for disease.
Common Stress Hormones and Their Effects on the Body:
|Cortisol||Suppresses Immune, digestive and, reproductive system suppresses growth processes, increases blood glucose concentration, increases glucose uptake by brain, decreases protein synthesis, appetite suppression insomnia – decreased REM, mood Swings/irritability, difficulty concentrating, high blood pressure, depression, anti-Inflammatory – decreased healing, increase Blood Glucose, fatigue weight gain and acne.|
|Epinephrine||Increased heart rate and blood pressure, constriction of blood vessels in skin and organs, dilates bronchioles in lungs, decreases digestive motility, increases Blood glucose, increases use of stored fat for energy, increases cellular energy production, dilates blood vessels in skeletal muscles|
|Norepinephrine||Constriction of blood vessels in skin, organs, and skeletal muscle, increased Blood Pressure and Heart rate|
Avoiding stress in today's fast-paced, money-driven world is impossible. The key to conquering stress isn’t merely trying to avoid it but knowing how to properly manage the stress you are exposed to. Fortunately, there are a myriad of proven methods that people can utilize to help combat the effects of stress on the body.
Below are some common examples of common stress management techniques that have all been shown to be effective tools at combating the effects of stress and improving overall health. Hopefully, this list will help empower you to take control of and manage the stressors in your own life to help you live a happy and healthful life!
Yoga, Art Therapy, Sleep, Healthy Balanced Diet, Exercise, Mindfulness, Positive Social Relationships, Medication/Supplementation, Sound/Music Therapy, Reduce Triggers, Pets, Meditation/Prayer.
10 Ways to relieve stress
Playing a sport helps relieve stress, helps you focus on the game rather than anything else. And you're being active which is healthy for you.
Helps relieve stress by expressing yourself through writing and allows you to put down your worries, and problems on paper in a poetic way, which sometimes things are better expressed through music.
It can offer immediate relief in a stressful situation. Getting your blood moving releases endorphins and can improve your mood almost instantaneously.
Hanging out with friends lets you relax and forget about all your worries and have a good time, or you can even talk about them with your friend(s) which also can help.
Breathe in and out slowly and deeply concentrating on your lungs as they expand fully in your chest. While shallow breathing causes stress, deep breathing oxygenates your body, and clears your mind.
Good Night Sleep
Having a good rest makes it so that you're not tired and you'll have more energy, and makes you have a better mood.
Contains healthy antioxidants, as well as theanine- an amino acid that has calming and soothing effect on the nervous system.
Stress levels and eating properly are closely related. Eating healthy has shown to reduce the symptoms of stress.
Helps take your mind off things and focus on the music. It also can help express your feelings through sound. Playing music calms you.
Helps relieve stress by allowing you to just focus on the lyrics and get lost the music
How to deal with stress and anxiety
Since stress is such a normal and common part of the American life, it is important that we integrate daily rituals, techniques and exercises to help combat the negative effects of chronic stress. Below you will find engaging examples of ways you can act NOW to help manage stress.
The Box Breathing Method
This simple method, employed by the US Navy SEALs, can be performed anywhere, anytime. Studies show that box breathing is effective at reducing stress, improving mood and emotional control. It is best to be seated comfortably with your feet flat on the floor, back against a chair and eyes closed.
1) Exhale slowly, releasing all the air from your lungs
2) Inhale through the nose while slowly counting to four in your head. Place awareness on the way the air fills your body.
3) Hold breath for a count of four
4) Exhale a count of four
5) Hold breath again for a count of four
6) Repeat 3-4 times
Art therapy is a fun and effective way to combat stress for both children and adults. It can be performed in a variety of ways including - ceramics, clay, sculpting, painting, drawing, collage, photography, fabric, and coloring.
Art helps people relax, putting them in a space best suited to understanding and processing emotions. It can serve as an emotional release for many and is especially effective for individuals that have trouble putting their emotions into words.
Art can induce similar states as meditation does. Research has shown that coloring can have a meditative effect, and one study reveals how anxiety levels are suppressed in people coloring complex geometric patterns. Regardless of talent or experience, creative activity can effectively help reduce stress.
Art acts as a form of self-care because it helps people build a sense of accomplishment, pride and self-confidence. It takes their minds away from stressful situations, and focuses it on a productive, self-expressive, creative activity instead.
ACTIVITY: Make a Zentangle
Zentangle is a fun, relaxing and easy-to-learn, activity is a great way to help defeat stress while enhancing your focus, creativity, problem solving and self-image. A regular Zentangle practice may also benefit general areas such as – addiction, phobia, pain management, burnout, and conflict resolution.
Learn the eight basic steps of the Zentangle method and how you can begin creating Zentangle art here:
THERAPY LOCATORS – Use the resources below to help you locate an art therapist TODAY!
|American Art Therapy Association||https://arttherapy.org/art-therapist-locator/|
|Art Therapy Credentials Board, Inc.||https://www.atcb.org/find-a-credentialed-art-therapist/|
|Art Therapy Online||https://www.arttherapyonline.org/|
How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing:
Effectiveness of Diaphragmatic Breathing for Reducing Physiological and Psychological Stress in Adults: a Quantitative Systematic Review:
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