Every day we are faced with different types of stress, from physical to mental. Some stress is necessary for life, learning and development. But too much stress can worsen and cause many diseases, including chronic illnesses. We need to learn how to make sure we have plenty of “non-stress time” in our lives. Read on to learn why learning how to manage and reduce stress is important to your overall health.
Stress is meant to be acute. We are meant to have cortisol in short bursts and then return to baseline, which has allowed us to survive for thousands of generations. We need to have “idle” or “no-stress” time to allow our bodies to function normally. The problem is today’s high stress world, too many of us are not spending some portion of our days intentionally creating that low stress or “idle” state that promotes health. And we need to reduce stress in our lives to promote health! Thousands of scientific studies link stress-reducing activities to lower cortisol levels, reduction in chronic illnesses and symptoms and improved health outcomes. Therefore, it is well worth learning and participating in enjoyable activities that reduce stress by adding them to your daily routine.
For our ancestors, stress hormones were essential for survival. If we stumbled upon a hungry tiger, our bodies needed to react, either preparing to fight the beast or run away. During times of stress. our stress hormones (cortisol) shoot up, and our body switches to the “fight or flight” response. Our heart rate and breathing speed up, digestion is halted and blood moves to our muscles to prepare for action. Once the threat passes, the stress hormones are quickly metabolized (broken down), and we reduce stress, returning back to “idle” state, where normal body processes like digestion, toxin removal and growth take place.
Today, for the most part, we no longer live in a world where tigers threaten us. However, our bodies still react to daily stresses like a traffic jam, financial worries or difficult work or personal relationships in the same way our ancestors once respond to a tiger. Our cortisol become continually elevated from these chronic stresses, and we are not able return to that “idle” baseline, where we can get back to resting and digesting.
Unfortunately, due to our stressful daily lives, nearly everyone in western society has chronic elevation of cortisol and excessive inflammation. These high cortisol levels disrupt hormone balance and increase inflammation, which can lead to illness and disease. In fact, nearly every chronic disease is caused or worsened by excess and inappropriate inflammation. This includes diabetes, heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, mental health problems, autoimmune diseases and even cancer!
So what can you do? You need to spend time every day de-stressing. Here are some great ways to manage and reduce stress. These activities allow you to spend more time with your stress hormones in “idle” mode. Ideally, you want to perform stress-reducing activities several times a day.
- Meditation and mindfulness: Try some deep breathing exercises. Spending some time every day doing yoga and/ or meditating can be transformative. Not only can it help you deal with your daily stress, but meditation can help to reduce symptoms of chronic illnesses such as autoimmune diseases.
- Spend time in nature: Whether it’s just sitting outside at lunch or taking a walk in your local park, take the time to look around. Even spotting a beautiful butterfly or appreciating new spring buds on a tree can calm your insides, helping to reduce stress.
- Exercise: You’ve heard it before, but exercise can do wonders for your physical and mental health.
- Journaling: Taking time each day to write your thoughts, worries and dreams is a great way to deal with the stress we all internalize. Just writing things down in a journal can make you feel calmer and more at ease right away.
If you’re new at it, start small and begin with just two to three minutes at a time throughout the day. You can make a change and reduce stress. It doesn’t matter how small you start, as long as you begin.
To learn more about me and my approach to health, visit http://www.terrywahls.com
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