What causes stress
Imagine you are walking down a beautiful trail, taking in the scenery, smelling the flowers and enjoying your day. Your brain is having a positive response to the relaxing environment, serotonin is released, and you feel happy, at ease. Now imagine, around the next turn you are face to face with a brown bear. In an instant the chemicals in your brain change drastically, digestion in halted, your heart beat speeds and blood flow to your muscles increases. These chemical changes are your body’s instinct to defend itself, your fight or flight response. These changes are also called stress.
Stress can be a good thing in moderation, or when you need that boost to dive out of harm’s way. But stress can cause unhealthy physical symptoms when it goes on for too long. Stress in everyday life can negatively impact physical and mental health. Most often, there is no fight or flight response needed, yet your body prepares to run, working overtime. This can cause you to feel anxious, worried, afraid or uptight.
What changes may be stressful
Simply, any change can lead to stress. This can be good change or bad change. Although, it may not be the change itself causing stress, rather how you react to it. It is also important to remember that stress is different for everyone. Going to the grocery store might be stressful for one individual and therapeutic for another.
Can stress hurt my health
Stress can cause or complicate health problems. A few possible signs of stress can include
- Neck and back pain/tightness
- Head aches
- Shortness of breath
How can stress be managed
Firstly, try and recognize the common signs of stress. Shoulder and neck tension, as well as clenched fists are often early warning signs of stress. The next step is to select a method to deal with your stress. Ideally, avoiding the thing that causes your stress is best, but that is not always an option. Here are some tips for dealing with stress,
- Choose a hobby – something you love, or want to get better at
- Try not to worry about the things out of your control
- Take care of your little problems first – this can help you to feel more in control
- Try to prepare for the stressful things in advance
- View change as a positive challenge, forward momentum
- Exercise regularly
- Choose healthier food options
Exercise is a great way to release pent up energy, as well as release your “happy” brain chemicals. For example, serotonin production is increased during exercise. Serotonin increase has been shown to improve mood and increase energy.
The silver lining
If you are feeling stressed, you get to choose your hobby, something you love. These hobbies can include music, puzzles, walking, yoga, and video games; the list is infinite, because there isn’t a correct answer. Get lost in the things you enjoy, and remember to take a deep breath.
Contact your doctor if you want help or advice on how you can tackle stress.
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Feature photo by Alan Cleaver