The Science of Stress.
How stress impacts our body, and 9 strategies to reduce stress.
Stress is an unavoidable part of our everyday lives. While some amount of stress can be helpful, excessive and long-term exposure can damage our physical and mental health. In this blog post, we will explore the various ways stress impacts our body and some of the ways we can better manage it.
When we experience stress, the body releases a hormone called cortisol. This hormone triggers the body’s “fight or flight” response, which causes several physiological changes. The heart rate increases, causing blood pressure to rise and blood vessels to narrow. This is because the body thinks it is under threat and must prepare to respond. Our respiratory rate also increases, causing faster breathing and a supply of oxygen to the muscles. The digestive system slows down, which is not a priority when the body is under stress. This is why we can feel like we have a stomach upset, or experience indigestion and loss of appetite. The immune system is also suppressed and less effective in fighting infections and diseases.
When under stress, muscles tend to tense up, leading to aches and pains. The body’s natural painkillers, called endorphins, can give us a temporary sense of relief or what some people might describe as a ‘euphoria’. The liver releases glucose into the bloodstream to give the body energy to respond to the perceived threat. As the prefrontal cortex is activated, we can also experience a short burst of increased focus, attention, and memory.
These responses can positively and negatively affect the body, depending on the circumstances and duration of the stress. Prolonged or chronic stress negatively impacts our health. When stressed for a long time, we are more likely to experience anxiety, low mood, or even depression. Stress can also impair our ability to concentrate and make decisions, leaving us overwhelmed and exhausted. This impacts our productivity at work or school, creating a cycle of more stress. Stress can impact our relationships and might increase social withdrawal or isolation. Prolonged stress can lead to physical health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Ultimately, excessive stress can lead to a reduced quality of life. It can rob us of joy and happiness and prevent us from enjoying the things that matter most.
There are a lot of strategies that you can implement that have been scientifically shown to reduce stress. You will know what works best for you; if it works, keep going. If it doesn’t, that is also ok. Try something else.
- Exercise – regular exercise can help reduce stress by releasing endorphins (feel-good hormones) and reducing tension in the body.
- Get enough rest – getting enough sleep is crucial for mental and physical health, and lack of sleep can contribute to stress.
- Practising relaxation techniques – deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or mindfulness- can help relax and calm the mind.
- Connect with others – talking to friends or family, joining a support group or participating in activities you enjoy can help you feel more connected and reduce stress.
- Prioritise time management – creating a schedule or to-do list can help manage time and reduce the impact of stressful events.
- Focus on the positive – focusing on positive experiences and aspects of life can help shift perspective away from negative or stressful situations.
- Eat a healthy diet – a healthy diet can help reduce the impact of stress on the body by providing the right nutrients and energy.
- Set realistic goals – setting realistic, achievable goals can help alleviate stress and increase motivation.
- Take breaks – short breaks throughout the day to stretch, relax, or engage in enjoyable activities can help reduce stress and improve productivity.
It is important to remember that this is not a substitute for seeing a mental health professional. If your mental wellbeing is still not improving, it is ok to get outside help. The Retreat Clinics are here to help, so contact us if you need us.