Having worked with many people in my career has shown me that no one escapes hard times in this life. Difficulties like prolonged illness, death, and loss of job, divorce or legal issues eventually touch everyone’s life. If I am wrong and your life is perfect, then the following information is not for you.
There are different levels of stress. There is actually “good” stress often called butterfly stress, or stress that motivates you to achieve a goal. This stress may be before a performance, before a final test, or before a first date. This is still stress; however, it is typically short lived, and usually for a positive event or to reach an objective you may have.
But then there is bad stress – stress that can actually kill you. That is correct, kill as in dead. But how can stress actually kill us?
First, we should look at what stress does to us physically. When we are stressed, the first thing that pulled out of our body is Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient, that helps our body do many things, including absorb iron correctly, and as an antioxidant to prevent the harmful affects of oxidation. Vitamin C is utilized quickly the minute we are stressed.
Next, the body uses up any store of B Vitamins, and then any trace minerals. Having a good supply of all these nutrients within our body will help keep us on an “even keel”. If you don’t eat well, you won’t have these nutrients to pull from, which can not only damage your existing cells by pulling needed nutrients from them, but also prevents new healthy cells from being made.
After we have depleted these important nutrients several other dreadful things can happen. The adrenal glands are where we store our “flight or fight” response. When the adrenals are depleted of nutrients, we become exhausted, or irritable. This is apparent when we are extremely fatigued but can’t relax or get the rest we so desperately need. We also lose the ability to think clearly or coherently.
Stress causes our autonomic nervous system (the sympathetic in particular) to release hormones known as epinephrine, norepinephrine and corticosteroids, such as cortisol. As these hormonal levels increase, this causes our body to become more acidic. Too much acid changes the way the protein receptor sites react on the cell, which causes our blood to thicken. In addition, these hormones destroy the elasticity of the blood vessels making them weak, narrow and susceptible to disease.
In addition, our stomach suffers as well. In Chinese medicine, there is an emotion tied to each organ and the emotion for the stomach is worry or stress. When we are stressed, we usually eat the wrong foods, often eat too fast, do not chew our food well, and then the stomach can’t possibly work optimally for us. Having these poor eating habits can lead to a hiatel hernia, where a portion of the stomach comes up through the diaphragm muscle into the upper chest cavity. This is your stomach trying to talk to you to tell you to stop doing these bad things! If you don’t digest your food properly – how is anything else supposed to work well in your body?
Finally, the next organ affected is the colon. The feeling associated to the colon is control, and when we are stressed we often are trying to control someone or something, which is impossible, or we are aware that we can’t control something and we internalize this. This may cause symptoms of constipation, diarrhea, gas or bloating. All of these issues prevent us from absorbing nutrients that we need to help keep our body in a balanced state.
This can cause an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, pulse rate, skin conductivity (becoming too sensitive to touch), respiration and others. The body, in particular the heart, is working harder which affects the viscosity of the blood.
Stress is a major part of illness. Many of us take on so much responsibility that we neglect taking care of ourselves. The body is a machine like your car, and if you kept your car running at the pace some of us run at each day, the car would eventually burn out. The same happens to us.
How can I tell if I am stressed?
Some people know when they are stressed, but other times it may be harder to pinpoint it as we are caught up in the drama of the situation. Check your blood pressure or your breathing. Are you breathing correctly? Many people breath too fast or shallow which results in not getting enough oxygen to feed cells. Other symptoms of stress may be eating too much, not eating at all, sleep disturbances, memory loss or illness in an otherwise normal healthy person.
What can I do to help be less stressed?
One of the first things I do when I’m experiencing stressful times is to just stop what I am doing and breathe. Take 3 very deep breaths. Taking a few minutes for yourself is important. Remind yourself that you are not currently being chased by lions and that no one is currently breaking down your door. Many stressful situations occur when we are caught up in drama of the situation. Taking time to calm down, breathe and look at the situation, and how we are taking part in the situation can be helpful. Is this a situation I can learn from? Did I create this situation out of a need of mine? (possibly wanting to be heard, seen or controlled?)
When we are stressed it is usually very hard to stop and take time to see what is happening from a third parties’ point of view but doing so can help immensely.
Sometimes people “self-medicate” with coping mechanisms. Many people want to drown their sorrows or eat their pain away. Some turn to alcohol and drugs, and others turn to sugar and junk food, often to fill themselves up, and prevent feeling the pain and thus lift their spirits. The problem with these coping mechanisms is they add stress to the organs and give us even less ability to cope physically.
In addition to eating correctly, there are many herbal products you may find some relief with – herbs are a good way to get high concentrations of nutrients in small dosages. Check with your herbalist to find the best products for your body. Just remember that these will not compensate for poor nutrition forever or make up for lost rest.
There are also many services and techniques to help people become less stressed. Some popular ones are yoga, exercise in general, therapy or massage. The best ones I have found don’t cost anything – breathe. Sit down in a quiet place, the bathroom if necessary and just breathe for 5 minutes. Nice deep breaths from your belly. You will be shocked at how much this will help you. You can do this easily in your car as well.
Some others stress reducing ideas are; pamper yourself with a bath. Light some candles, use some fun bubble bath or oils, and just relax. Let go, let the universe take over your problems. It is amazing what happens when you let this happen. It may seem that the worst will happen, but things usually work out they way they are supposed to and usually it is for the best. I can guarantee that making yourself sick in the process won’t fix anything.