How to take charge of stress
We need enough of it to keep getting out of bed every morning, and not too much of it that we explode or get sick.
So how do we balance this thing called stress that seems to be becoming a bigger part of our lives?
Physiologically, the stress response is the fight or flight system which involves increased heart rate and breathing rate, a burst of adrenalin and energy, and stress hormones like cortisol start pumping through your bloodstream, preparing your body to face a threat.
If the threat is, “A bus is about to hit me I better jump out of the way,” then this is helpful. If we had to cognitively consider how far the bus was from us or how quickly we would have to move, then BANG, it would be too late.
On the other hand, if the threat is, “I’m late for work” or thoughts like “I'm so sick of arguing with my spouse” are on repeat in our heads, then this can be extremely damaging.
When cortisol is elevated for too long or too frequently it disturbs all the hormonal systems of the body.
There’s a lot of talk around Good Stress vs Bad Stress and the right amount of stress. For example, ‘good’ stress can help motivate you to reach your goals, and can support a top performance as you step up to deliver a presentation, and it can boost memory. Moderate levels of stress have been linked to better recovery times after surgery.
As human beings we weren't designed to experience stress over long periods of time. It was supposed to be an instant burst of energy so you had enough brain and muscle power to solve your challenge, which in primitive times would have gotten you away form that large predator you just spotted. In modern times, stress tends to be more prolonged, and that's when you can start to see some of the negative effects on physical emotional and mental health.
If you are experiencing unhelpful or unhealthy prolonged stress then you need to take charge of this and there is no better time to start than now.
So how can we take charge of Stress? Here are 5 strategies you can start applying today.
One of the best ways to counter stress is to exercise, as it will metabolise the cortisol in your system and remove it.
If you can go to the gym, go kickboxing, go for a run, or even just go for a walk - any kind of muscle activity will metabolise the cortisol. The more strenuous the better for stress to leave pronto.
Of course we can’t automatically go for a run or play a game of squash when we experience stress as this could be at work or in a controlled situation.
So the next best thing is to move our bodies in any way we can. This could just be to get up if sitting or sit if standing or walk to the bathroom or stretch. The more movement the better.