The human body has a defense mechanism in order to protect itself from stress. In early times, this was caused by threats from predators and other aggressors. Although these stressors have disappeared, it doesn’t mean we are not exposed to stress.
Modern lifestyle confronts us with many challenges -stressors- in our daily life such as work pressure, making ends meet, and family reconciliation. So you may feel as if you’re always under attack.
However, you can fight back. There are stress management strategies so it doesn’t affect your health.
The natural stress response
Stress is a natural and automatic response to challenges. And this happens to everyone. When a person faces a situation perceived as stressful, a complex natural ‘alarm system’ is sounded within the body that allows a person to mobilize all resources -physical and emotional- needed to cope with the event and restore a state of normal functioning.
At a chemical level, when your body perceives a stressor -for example, a noise in the middle of the night-, your hypothalamus, a little area of your brain, sets off an alarm system in your body. Your adrenal glands begin to release a surge of hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline raises your blood pressure, gets your heart rate up and increases energy supply. Cortisol, the main stress hormone, increases blood sugars and their use by the brain. Cortisol disrupts almost all your body, especially immune response, and suppresses the digestive system, growth processes, and non-essential functions.
This complex natural alarm system also sends signals to brain areas that control mood, motivation and fear.
When stress control your life
The human body is designed to control the stress response. When the stressful situation disappears, passed hormone levels return. Adrenaline and cortisol levels, blood pressure and heart rate are restored to their initial levels. The body's activities return to normal.
However, when the stressor does not go away, it is always present, this complex alarm system still sounding. Long-term overexposure to cortisol and other hormones can disrupt almost every process in the body. Leading to an increased risk of health problems such as anxiety, depression, headaches, digestive problems, sleep problems, memory impairment, heart diseases, and weight gain.
Management of stressful situations with healthy coping techniques is important in order to maintain an overall health. And, there is a link between chronic stress and accelerated aging.
Tips to prevent stress
Unfortunately, stressful events constantly attack our lives. So learning how to manage these events to minimize their impact on your health is very important in today's lifestyle.
The first step is to identify what causes you stress. Next, you should put into practice stress management strategies to deal with stressful situations.
Here are some tips to cope with stress:
- Eating a healthy diet.
- Getting regular exercise.
- Meditation and relaxation techniques.
- Write a journal.
- Taking time for hobbies.
- Getting a good night's sleep.
- Fostering good friendships.
- Taking melatonin and magnesium supplements.
- Mental health counseling.
Keep away from unhealthy stress management strategies, like using alcohol, tobacco, drugs or excess processed food.
Learning to manage stress takes time. Don’t throw in the towel!
The rewards are worth it, such as less stress and anxiety, less hypertension, greater concentration, and better relationships. All of these will make your life longer and healthier. So take it easy.