So Stressed Out: 23 Problems Caused by Stress

Effects on the body
Effects on your mood
Effects on Behavior
   ·  Heart disease
   ·   Asthma
   ·   Obesity
   ·   Diabetes
   ·   Headaches
   ·   Gastrointestinal          Problems
   ·   Alzheimer’s Disease
   ·   Accelerated Aging
   ·   Premature Death

·   Anxiety
·   Restlessness
·   Lack of motivation or focus
·   Feeling overwhelmed
·   Irritability or anger
·   Sadness or depression

·   Overeating or undereating
·   Angry outbursts
·   Drug or alcohol abuse
·   Tobacco use
·   Social withdrawal
·   Exercising less often



     What do all of these ailments have in common?  They can all be caused by stress.  We, as a nation, have decided that if you’re not living a stressed life, you must be lazy.  If you’re not working 40+ hours a week, taking kids to their after school athletics, involved in your local community, keeping a spotless home while learning to be an amazing chef (and wine connoisseur), and training for your next 5k then you are wasting too much time being unproductive.  This week I was trying to decide what to write about for our blog.  I just returned from an 8 day vacation with 16 other members of my family in Hawaii (yes, a little stressful, but amazingly fun).  I answered the phone and the person on the other line said “Wow!  You sound so relaxed!  Hawaii must’ve really helped!”   It got me thinking.  Can people really hear the stress in my voice?  I try and sound professional and polite, not stressed.  I love my life here in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and life is less stressful here than when I lived in the Bay Area, but it is still stressful nonetheless.  My husband and I work full-time, have 3 kids at home, are active in our church, have band practice, and attend a walking group.  In between those things you must add in housekeeping, cooking, running errands, going to gymnastics and girl scouts, etc, etc, etc.

    The list of health problems related to stress (listed above) are not all-inclusive. These are just some common things that are treatable or even preventable.  In addition to these health issues stress can exacerbate almost any condition.  So, if we must absolutely live these busy lives, what can we do to relieve some of this stress?  No one wants any of these things in their lives right?

1        The American Psychology Association says that Chronic stress causes the muscles in the body to be in a more or less constant state of guardedness. When muscles are taut and tense for long periods of time, this may trigger other reactions of the body and even promote stress-related disorders. Relaxation techniques have been shown to effectively reduce muscle tension, decrease the incidence of certain stress-related disorders, such as headache, and increase a sense of well-being.  So, try some yoga.  When I was a college student, I was taking classes for massage therapy.  We did a lot of yoga, stretching, deep breathing exercises, and meditation.  They all worked wonderfully for making me feel relaxed and revived.  It also made me focus on the moment rather than the million things I had going on in my life.  It really became “me time”.
2       
      Regular exercise is probably the most commonly prescribed at-home treatment for stress.  It literally changes the chemicals in your brain and body.  The Mayo Clinic states that “Virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever. If you're not an athlete or even if you're out of shape, you can still make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management.”  Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, which are the body’s feel-good chemicals.  It also helps you to sleep better at night.  Lack of sleep is definitely part of the stress/anxiety/depression cycle.  Not to mention that exercise helps with every single one of the ailments listed above that are caused by stress.
3      
   
    
  
       Make some changes to your diet.  I personally suffer from panic attacks.  After learning my triggers I’ve had to give up caffeine, alcohol, aspartame, and msg.  Some people are literally mortified when I tell them I gave up caffeine and alcohol.  I can have the occasional drink (maybe once a month or so), but I was never a big drinker in the first place and not drinking was definitely more appealing to me than the feeling of “I am having a heart attack and am going to die” from the panic attacks.  Also, I do miss caffeine.  I’m not going to lie.  That one still hurts.  However, I feel the same way as I do about alcohol.  If I have a cup of caffeinated coffee right now I will be on the floor within 15 minutes in extreme pain and feeling as though I am suffocating.  Why would I want that cup of coffee if that’s the result?  You may not have the same issues as I do, but caffeine is directly related to stress, anxiety, and depression also.  Sugar is another culprit.  It causes inflammation in the body which worsens stress, pain, weight gain (especially weight gain in the belly area), and don’t forget that ever-famous “sugar crash”.  It leaves you exhausted and hungry.
4      
       Get a massage!  As I mentioned in #1, I went to school for massage.  I had no idea how positively that would affect me.  There are so many benefits to massage.  First of all it raises levels of dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin which are all chemicals released in the body that relax you and make you feel happy.  Not to mention it reduces cortisol levels which is a stress hormone that is released when our fight-or-flight instinct kicks in. High levels of cortisol have been linked to many stress-related symptoms and illnesses including sleep deprivation, anxiety, inflammation and aggression.
       
      Last, but not least, consider seeing a therapist or having a life coach.  Is your stress caused by day to day things or is it more deeply rooted?  Is it caused by a specific incident (or multiple specific ones) that have plagued you for a while?  A therapist can help you work through those feelings and help you to process and deal with them.  A life coach can help you to organize and prioritize things in your life and give you a new perspective.  Sometimes people need someone who’s not in our inner circle to show us things we never would have thought of because they’re view is not tainted by being in the situation with us or having feelings for us.

     Not everyone can go on a week-long vacation to Hawaii.  Most people working in the US never accrue large amounts of vacation time from their jobs and even if they do, going on a vacation like that is expensive.  Even if you vacation at home, you won’t be going to work every day, but you will still be doing house work, running errands, taking the kids where they need to go, etc.  It’s hard to relax completely when you still have all of that to deal with.  Try one or more of these things and let me know if they worked for you.  Comment and let me know if you have more suggestions too!

Here are a couple of links that I found helpful while writing this blog: Web MD,Massage Therapy, and Skillsyouneed.com

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