Before we talk about how chronic stress impacts your health, let’s get something out of the way. From an evolutionary standpoint, stress is a good thing. Whether you need to run from a tiger, or you need to get through the aftermath of an automobile accident that was a “near miss,” stress helps. It sharpens your senses, gives you a surge of energy, and gets you through the hard stuff.
But, stress is supposed to be a very short term thing. The team at Family Acupuncture and Wellness encounter far too many patients who are living with chronic stress — stress that never goes away. The result varies, depending on your body and your overall life, but it’s never positive. You may have headaches, pain, depression or anxiety, difficulty sleeping, or any of a whole host of health issues due to chronic stress.
What happens when you feel stress?
Let’s say you’re in a situation that calls for a short-term stress reaction. Perhaps your toddler has escaped and you need to chase them. Here’s what happens in your body:
- Your brain sends the signal for cortisol and adrenaline to be released
- You begin to breathe faster
- Your heart beats faster
- Your blood pressure rises
- Your liver produces extra blood sugar
- You might have additional stomach acid
- Your muscles tense up
Each of these physical reactions can be useful if you need to run faster to catch your toddler. But if the stress reaction continues day after day, you’re at risk for numerous health problems.
Modern life is quite stressful. There’s work, family obligations, bills, taking care of your home, transportation issues, and about a million other things. It’s not surprising that so many people live with chronic stress.
While it’s not surprising, chronic stress is problematic. Increased levels of cortisol are associated with obesity, another chronic health issue associated with a cascade of conditions and diseases. Increased respiratory and heart rates are linked to cardiovascular disease, and worsen conditions such as asthma. More stomach acid can mean GERD or other digestive issues.
How to let it go
Saying you’re going to de-stress is one thing, but actually doing it in practical terms can be quite a different thing. Some first steps that may help you include:
If you volunteer, serve on committees, or have other “extra” activities filling your calendar, try stepping away for a time. It doesn’t necessarily mean forever, but getting down to the basics is a good place to start lowering your stress levels.
Schedule time to relax
It might sound crazy, but getting downtime on your schedule can make an enormous difference. You might want to put “reading” on your calendar, or lying in your hammock, or spending time with family or loved ones. Scheduling time for activities that bring you joy is an often overlooked way to lower stress.
You don’t have to enter a bodybuilding contest or run a marathon, but find an activity that you enjoy and then do it. Moving your body is a great stress reliever and carries numerous other benefits as well.
Get a massage or acupuncture treatment
We offer a slate of services that can help you feel less stress. Schedule an appointment at Family Acupuncture and Wellness today and find out how we can help you live a life with less stress!