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April is National Stress Awareness Month

How is stress defined? Is it the same as anxiety? Is it good or bad?

Stress is a necessary part of life. Stress from gravity increases muscle and bone mass. Stress causes us to perform at a higher level and can be a great motivator.

Stress can also be overwhelming and paralyzing when it’s more than we can handle. It can affect memory, mood, the ability to focus and deal with day to day activities. It can also increase the waistline!

We are built to deal with stressors and our body even has a stress reaction that’s often referred to as the fight or flight response. When something happens that requires an instant reaction such as being chased by a dog our native response system kicks in and sends blood and hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to the rescue so that you can think faster, move better and react immediately react to the situation.

When you live in a constant state of stress tho… like many of us do, these stress hormones can stay elevated instead of taking a break and letting the body return to normal. This can wreak havoc on blood sugar levels, blood pressure and the ability to focus.

We all deal with stress in a different way, some of which is dependent on how you experienced life as a younger version of yourself.  Here are a few ways we deal with stress.

  • Fight – be aggressive, angry, literally fight or argue – Not always great for relationships
  • Flight – leave the situation, flee – it’s not always possible to flee a situation so what then?
  • Freeze – not respond, hold your breath, not speak up
  • Fawn – Immediately try to smoothe over the situation

In normal situations the stress we experience is meant to create a reaction and then taper off to allow the body to return to normal function. When you go from one stressful trigger to the next you can end up with a high stress lifestyle. Living this way for long periods of time affect your health and many people do not even recognize that they are living this way.

Some ways to spot stress in your life:

  • change in appetite more or less than normal
  • unexplained weight gain
  • digestive changes – diarrhea, constipation, nervous tummy
  • short term memory issues
  • indecisiveness
  • poor focus
  • mood swings or being easily agitated
  • depression
  • rapid heart beat
  • grinding teeth
  • ringing in the ears
  • loss of pride in appearance
  • sleep – too much or insomnia
  • increased caffeine
  • relying on alcohol or substances
  • headaches

If you are experiencing stress in your life that is negatively affecting your health you should investigate ways to reduce the stressors in your life.

  • Learn to delegate some of your responsibilities
  • Meditate and practice breathing techniques
  • Exercise regularly
  • Plan ahead and schedule things like meals
  • Practice Self-Care
  • Celebrate the small wins in your life

Also try some of these changes

  • Reduce sugar
  • Take breaks
  • Have a cup of calming tea – lavender or chamomile
  • Reduce caffeine and alcohol
  • Find someone to talk to

Remember stress is a necessary part of life but in excess can cause health issues we do not want. Try to find ways to mediate the stressors in your life.

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