Stress: How it affects the body physically
Good Afternoon GlobalMusic4 Life Fans! It is beautiful and crisp outside. I know, it will soon go from crisp to crunchy (aka snow) but take the sunny day for what it’s worth. I like it when it is around 50 ish outside. Good for the joggers and runners and us walkers. I have taken to power walking so now I get stares. Oddly enough though, I get a few “good for you” and “keep it up girl” from strangers. There were far more positive than negative comments so that is good. There is always some pepper in the pot as grandma used to say. I take negative energy and let it fuel me to do better if for no other reason but to “show them”.
Let’s talk about stress. Stress is known to affect us mentally. Schools the nation over have trembled because some stressed out kid has killed themselves or shot up the school. That could be stress, depression, and other mental illnesses in place. What I want to focus on briefly is every day stress.
Ok, everyday stress can be a horror for some people so let me be even more specific. I am speaking on regular stress that happens in a normal middle class existence. The kids being late for school, the spouse nagging, the boss complaining, traffic, and of course finances. There is also peer pressure, grades, stress from parents expecting too much, stress from feeling unpopular, stress from just general low self-esteem : All of these can manifest in physical symptoms.
It is a lot to think about. We cannot get rid of the stress. The more money you make the more you feel you need. The prettiest girl in class feels pressure to be wafer thin. The office worker feels pressure not to take his vacation in an effort to impress his superiors at work. What to do? What happens if it gets too intense?
Three major problems:
Heart problems: Stress messes with the heart. Yes this has been proven in study after study. The fight or flight reaction, the anxiety reaction, they all affect the heart. It increases blood pressure, and the release of chemicals that may lead to higher cholesterol.
Obesity: Ok wait; I am an expert on this. How many of us eat our feelings down? Even my skinny girlfriends grab a pint of triple fudge ice cream after a break up. Stress makes us overeat as a quick pick me up. And of course when I am stressed I do not want carrot sticks I want hot fries, with cheese. The food releases chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Then you feel like crap for over indulging and stress out and go back to the hair of the dog that bit you. That is more food. Then there are folks who starve themselves when they are stressed or binge and purge. Stress can lead to us messing up our bodies in a very visual and ultimately traumatic way.
Diabetes: Well for type II diabetes, the over indulging in bad food can lead to diabetes. Too much sugar, cholesterol, etc. etc. It has even been shown in studies that stress raises the glucose levels in the body as if it knows that you need more energy to deal with whatever you are going through. You add that to the intake of simple carbohydrates like bread and white sugar and you have a recipe for disaster.
Ok so we know it affects us. We are not stupid! Of course you aren’t – that’s why I like you! There are some ways to reduce stress even when you have let it affect you for a long time. Yes here goes my list; you know I love them so:
- Go get some sleep. Make it happen. New mom? Learn to love the in laws and invite them over, one at a time, to help with the baby. It is ok to sleep in the daytime while grandma is there. You deserve it! Long hours at work? Take a 30 minute catnap and let your body know! Tell him or her you will skip your 60 minute unpaid break for a 30 minute nap, a ten minute lunch (soup on one minute hot but drinkable) and review what needs to be done for the rest of the day in your last 20 minutes (aka nibble on a half a sandwich while looking over outlook) That way you will look dedicated, they know you are napping on YOUR time not theirs, and you will feel and function better for the afternoon work.
- Meditate. Yes that again. I promise if you take it seriously and practice it will help you tremendously. Namaste!
- Visualize. Create a vision board. Yes it is dorky. I have two. One for health and one for financial growth. Concentrate and visualize what you need to make you happy. Ok maybe Mads is married and in a foreign country but I can focus on finding a great person for me, get healthier for me, being more spiritual for me, and making more money – yeppers, for me! You have to put yourself first for a little bit each day. You can do visualization while brushing your teeth. Making the bed, watching a chic flick, waiting for the clothes to dry, – ummm not while driving. Pay attention to the road people.
- Exercise. Enjoy it. Find something you like. Tennis, swimming, walking through a pretty neighborhood, working out at the gym. Cardio helps the heart, the muscles, blood flow, and it helps clear your head. Even some low key yoga may help you meditate, relax, visualize, and reduce stress.
- Talk to someone. I like therapists because they are sworn to secrecy. However, talk over your issues with a close friend, a nice teacher or counselor, a religious leader that you feel will not be judgmental, – someone you trust. The point is to have a sounding board and get what is stressing you out – off your chess. If you have severe stress therapy is often covered by insurance and that may be a good route. There are also places in urban areas where you can get therapy for free or at least help for select stressors (like a homeless shelter, a women’s crisis center, a men’s advocacy group, etc.)
- Try to, with a little finesse and good will, get rid of the stressors. No you can put the crying baby back. However you cannot associate with negative people sometimes. At work do your job but don’t hang out with folks who get on your nerves. At school, if your best friend likes to humiliate you in front of others in order to get a laugh, she is not your friend, leave her or him alone. If they ask why feel free to tell them – or not. Call the bill collectors! If you are working, play let’s make a deal, get some credit counseling, take charge and make things work out for what is best for you.
- This is the hardest one….. Change your attitude
What? You may ask, is wrong with my attitude? Well, it may be making you ill. Sometimes we chose to stress out over events. “It’s not what happens but your reaction to what happens that counts” The baby is a baby, it is going to cry. If you freak out every time you are hurting yourself and probably stressing out the kid. A nice calm parent cooing it to sleep is much more soothing and effective than an angry stressed out mom snatching it up and nervously jiggling it. Children know when parents are unhappy and it makes them unhappy. That is just negative energy feeding off of itself. If your boss is a SOB and you cannot quit or move departments. Make an appointment and meet with them. Try to work any issues out in a calm and professional demeanor. If that does not work, look for a new gig. Life is too short to be miserable. Be discreet and honorable but put yourself first. Sometimes people have a high strung personality and are easily upset, easily angered, easily hurt, and easily embarrassed. You have to think about it. Those are your choices. Choose differently and choose wisely. You can rage against traffic and that silly *&^% who cut you off or you can be grateful you are ok, and listen to some calming music or heck your favorite rock music and just relax in the traffic. I love audiobooks. Heavy traffic isn’t so bad when you are occupied but can still pay attention to the road.
Meditation, breathing exercises, visualization, cardio, and yoga: all help you reduce your stress. Changing your attitude – yes YOUR attitude, is the first step. Figure out positive things that make you happy and do them. Then figure out negative stuff… and do less of it. Ultimately your life and your health can be improved by only you.
How do you deal with stress? Let me know! I am at MsMelissa@melissaweblog.com
A great start to learning more about your body is Dr. Kiki Hurt’s new book “save Your Own Life: Mini Medical School II. It has a lot of useful information and the tables in the back give you somewhere handy to put all of your important medical information.
Buy it from the website as a pdf or from itunes as an iBook. We will have it as a paperback before Christmas!
Love and light,
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