The Relationship Between Stress & Health

How Stress is Sabotaging Your Wellbeing

The first thing you think about when someone tells you they’re stressed is usually something negative, but that’s not always the case. Even more so, stress can be a good thing – it can push us to new heights, bring out our best work and make life more exciting. Nevertheless, much like any other scenario, the saying “in big quantities, the cure can be poison” applies here, too.

And we’ve all experienced and seen it – too much stress can have negative effects on your health and wellbeing. The question is – How can we optimally handle stress so that the joy of life can wash over us?

There isn’t one answer to this because stress is a complex problem – sometimes, what we think causes the stress is just a catalyst to the inner conflicts at the core of the problem. The same complexity of this so common problem, is what led us to write this article in the first place, so without further ado, let’s jump right into it!

What is Stress?

By nature, stress is nothing but a defense mechanism – the so-called “stress response” is triggered when our senses detect danger. For instance, when our species lived primarily in the wild, this stress response would be triggered when a predator, such as a bear, came up and attacked. The main role of the stress defense, is to keep us away from danger.

The classical “fight or flight” response leads to the release of stress hormones, which prime the body for survival and nothing else. Your heart starts pounding. You can’t stay in one place. You are completely alert of your environment.

Does this sound familiar…? That same stress response gets triggered nowadays too, but not because a bear is trying to kill you, but because:

  • Your boss is being a madman
  • Your close one is giving you a hard time
  • Your assignment is due
  • You’re in traffic for hours on end

The list goes on. The point here is that the REAL purpose of the stress response isn’t really fulfilled, for the most part.

Sustained Stress

Yes, it’s true – the modern-day lifestyle inflicts stress upon us all the time in an unnatural manner. One that isn’t meant to keep us from danger but rather…get us closer to it.

And the worse thing is that this stress becomes chronic, easily. An unpleasant situation, whether it’s with a relative, your boss, or a co-worker, keeps you lingering with the negative thoughts and emotions for DAYS on end. Sometimes even months, depending on the situation. Slowly but surely, you start experiencing mild symptoms of this chronic stress, such as:

  • Mental burnout
  • Physical exhaustion
  • Depression
  • Lack of focus
  • Etc, etc.

While at first, this may seem like something harmless that exists just on a mental level, but the truth is that when sustained, stress can ruin your physical health, too.

Recovery, Growth & Immunity

One of the lesser-known yet critical things about stress is that it hinders your recovery, growth, and immune function. This is not some woo-woo pseudoscience, but it’s a fact.

As we have mentioned in previous articles, cortisol, the main stress hormone, is so effective at buffering the immune system that it is used during organ transplants!

The goal with this is to inhibit the body’s immune system so that the organ isn’t instantly rejected.

Pair chronic stress with toxic coping mechanisms like drinking and smoking, and you’re on the highway to chronic disease. Not only that, but when under stress, your heart, brain, and the entire body are working out of harmony – The heart beats fast and irregularly, your cognitive function is all over the place.

All of this puts you at a much greater risk of not only mental burnout but physical manifestations of your stress as well.

Breathe In & Let it Go!

Many of us wonder – How can one actually rid themselves of the burden of chronic stress?

The short answer is – It depends.

But for starters, you can accept a couple of things:

1.   Stress is automatic

Once the danger is perceived, an automatic pattern of thoughts, emotions, and actions is triggered.

The more you follow along with that path, the more stress increases.

Therefore, you have to consciously detach yourself from the pattern, break it and make a conscious choice.

2.   Stress Is Addictive

If you try what we said above, you’ll come to find that in the face of stress, you feel almost powerless when trying to make a conscious choice.

This is because the hormones released during stress are powerful and, even more so, quite addictive.

In stressful situations, we bring out all our reactions – Whether it’s yelling, crying, or straight-up overthinking.

We get used to and even addicted to these responses, and when we don’t follow up with them, something feels off.

Keep your ground, though – When the animal in you wants to react, choose to stay rational and respond rather than follow up with the automatic reaction.

3.   Your Breath Is Powerful!

Last but not least, as a result of a stressful event or situation, we tend to observe a change in breathing patterns.

Depending on the situation, breathing becomes more shallow, more frequent, and it can even stop in some situations.

However, if you get over that stress and come back to a normal state, you’d breathe normally as an end result.

So here’s some food for thought: If you were to breathe as you would when you are calm, during stress, wouldn’t that signal the body it is in a safe, non-stressful environment?

The answer is – Yes if you do it long enough and swipe the thoughts coming in from the automatic patterns caused by stress!

Pro-Tip: When stressed, breathe in and screw it!

Final Thoughts

This blog post has given you a lot to think about, and we hope it will help inform your decisions for the future.

The next step is action – take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising regularly, and practicing mindfulness meditation so that you can build resilience against stress.

If this sounds like too much work or if anxiety continues to give life meaninglessness, then seek professional support from someone who knows how to guide people through tough times with compassion and understanding.

It’s not always easy, but there are solutions out there!

Let us know if we could ever be helpful down the road :)

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