Stress isn’t always bad. In small doses, it can help you perform under pressure and motivate you to do your best. But when you’re constantly running in emergency mode, your mind and body pay the price. If you frequently find yourself feeling frazzled and overwhelmed, it’s time to take action to bring your nervous system back into balance. You can protect yourself — and improve how you think and feel — by learning how to recognize the signs and symptoms of chronic stress and taking steps to reduce its harmful effects.
Your nervous system isn’t very good at distinguishing between emotional and physical threats. If you’re super stressed over an argument with a friend, a work deadline, or a mountain of bills, your body can react just as strongly as if you’re facing a true life-or-death situation. And the more your emergency stress system is activated, the easier it becomes to trigger and the harder it becomes to shut off.
If you tend to get stressed out frequently—as many of us do in today’s demanding world—your body may be in a heightened state of stress most of the time. And that can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can suppress your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive systems, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, and speed up the aging process. It can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
Signs that You are Suffering the Effects of Chronic Stress May Include:
Some of these symptoms may mimic, or overlap, with dysfunction of the thyroid gland, gonadal (sex) hormones, malnutrition, depression, chronic fatigue states, chronic illness, infections, alcohol and drug abuse, and heavy metal toxicity (Ng 1990; Gagnon 2006).
Therefore, it is very important to rule out other possible causes before attributing symptoms to chronic stress alone.
Therapies such as acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and massage therapy, relaxation, and even music therapy have shown success in stress management (Hanley 2003; Dixit 1993; Field 2005).
Myself, I prefer acupuncture (by a knowledgeable practitioner) and massage to relieve stress and help restore good body function. I must say, I also love my herbs for stress. Sedative herbs such as lavender, passionflower, poppy, and valerian can provide calming effects to reduce stress.
The herbal lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) has been shown in a number of studies to reduce stress. This is yet another herbal that has shown benefit in reducing negative effects of stress on the body (Kennedy 2004 and 2006; Dimpfel 2004).
All things considered... it is hard to avoid stress. But try to do these "5" things:
Find time to REST (an hour each day - alone).
Find time to CONNECT with those you enjoy.
Find time to RELAX (one day a week).
Find time to prepare HEALTHY food.
Find time to WALK or SIT in a quiet space (a park, wooded path, garden).
As the pillow in my living room states:
Note: ****Anyone who wishes to embark on any dietary, drug, exercise, or other lifestyle change intended to prevent or treat a specific disease or condition should first consult with and seek clearance from a physician or other qualified health care professional.
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After 22 years working in the health field