Historically, stress was a short term response to a potentially life threatening situation. In small doses and in the right situation stress is useful. Blood pressure rises as blood and oxygen are sent to the muscles and brain to improve function, making you temporarily smarter and stronger. Overall more alert.
Short-term stress has been shown to boost the immune system. It mildly stresses our body which adapts and becomes stronger as a result – adhering to the saying, “what doesn’t kill you – makes you stronger”.
However, Long Term Stress Can Lead To Chronic Health Problems…
Stress raises cortisol, the hormone that raises blood sugar levels and cuts off functions that are not needed in a fight or flight situation – digestion, immunity and repair.
The Overworked Generation
One of the UK’s top doctors, Professor John Aston, claims that overwork is leading to an increase in mental health problems. The high pressure, high stress lives that we lead is damaging to our health and relationships. Many of today’s illnesses such as anxiety and depression can be triggered by the stress induced by overworking. He suggests shortening the working week to 4 days. In these days of austerity this is impractical for many of us. So what can we do?
We need firstly to provide an environment that buffers us from stress and anxiety then implement a number of coping mechanisms.
– Have control over your day to day living and ultimate destiny. As much as possible the more you control your life the happier you will be.
– Connect emotionally to others. It’s important to be able to share your troubles with friendly ears. It’s equally important that these friendly ears prioritise listening over dispensing advice. Unsolicited advice can often be perceived as criticism.
– Play a part in the community. Isolation in general is not good for either psychological or physical health. The paradox being that often when stressed, depressed or anxious you just don’t want to go out and see people. Any road to recovery will involve pushing through this barrier and connecting.
– Privacy. Whilst connection to others is very important, the ability to find some “me” time is essential for relaxation and processing emotions and thoughts. Just make sure you don’t spend too much time on your own. That time can be mis-spent in self-reflection and brooding.
– Meaning and Purpose. A strong sense of purpose can render all other emotional needs void. A prime example of this is Nelson Mandela who was locked away on Robben Island for years for his anti-apartheid beliefs. Whilst others may have crumbled from the extreme stress of hard manual labour and isolation, his beliefs and sense of purpose kept him going.
Employing Your Coping Mechanisms
Once you’ve got your environment right it’s important to employ effective coping mechanisms.
Here are some examples:
1) Exercise. Exercising releases feel-good endorphins. Accord-ing to research at University of British Columbia aerobic exercise can help enlarge the hippocampus, improve memory and fight against Alzheimer’s. Weight lifting releases a molecule (IGF1) that improves executive function processes such as planning and problem solving. Yoga reduces stress by shrinking the amygdala – the primitive part of the brain responsible for processing fear and anxiety (according to a study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital).
2) Breathe. How often have you fully focused on your breath-ing? Could you tell me how far down towards your lungs you are aware of your breath? What does the temperature of the air feel like when you inhale? Spend a couple of minutes absorbed in your breathing.
3) Smile and be thankful. Write down three things that you’re thankful for. No matter how bad your day you can always be thankful of something – your family, partner, the food on your table, the sun, or even the rain. Even if it feels contrived cultivate this practice and you may notice the blues slowly receding as you learn to appreciate all the often hidden positives in your life.
4) Touch. A massage not only de-stresses but the “touch” element can release oxytocin to make you feel better.
If you’d like to find out more, or how acupuncture can help you de-stress please call or go to www.goweracupuncture.co.uk/swansea/anxiety-stress-depression
Tel: 07764 254881 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org