Understanding the Power of Stress on Our Bodies
Once upon a time, I used to think stress was the equivalent of having a bad day. Over time, I've learned that stress is much more than that. It is a biological response of our body to external or internal stimuli that could be beneficial or damaging, depending on its intensity and duration. Fun fact, the term 'stress' in biological or psychological context was introduced only in the 20th century by the legendary endocrinologist Hans Selye. Not so fun fact, Selye experienced severe gastric ulcerations when he was overly stressed and it led him to his research, and ultimately, the bittersweet discovery. The same thing happened to Harrison during our last hectic holiday season when he was juggling between work deadlines and festive preparations. And boy, did we learn a thing or two about stress management!
Unlocking the Mysteries behind Stress Hormones
In order to understand our stress reactions, it's essential to get familiar with two key actors in this drama - adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline is a hormone our bodies produce in response to stress, preparing us for a flight or fight response. Increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and boosted energy are its calling cards. On the other hand, cortisol is a more long-term stress player. It takes a little longer to show up but once it does, it keeps your body on high alert. In correct doses, these hormones are literally lifesavers. But when they overstay their welcome, like an unwelcome house guest, it could lead to problems such as anxiety, depression, heart disease, weight gain, and memory or concentration impairment. Yikes!
Adopting Stress-Reducing Lifestyle
So how do we keep these hormonal rascals in check? One word - lifestyle. I'm talking about good sleep, balanced diet, regular physical activity, and a splash of mindfulness. My grandma always said, "The hours of sleep before midnight are the golden hours." Sure, we all laughed then, but turns out she was onto something. Sleep helps your brain remove toxic waste products accumulated during the day, crucial among them being the infamous stress hormone, cortisol. We all know the importance of a balanced diet but I must stress (pun intended) on reducing caffeine and increasing magnesium in your diet. Physical activities have been proven to decrease our body’s cortisol levels. From a brisk walk around the block or an intense Zumba class, anything goes as long as you keep moving. Mindfulness, the practice of being present at the moment fulfills the promise of reduced stress by training your brain to respond rather than react to stressors. It’s like hitting the pause button, taking a deep breath, and then proceeding. And let me tell you, it works!
Effective Techniques for Reducing Stress
Developing a few simple techniques can drastically impact the way we respond to stress. One of my personal favs - deep-breathing exercises. Hard to believe, but it can significantly lower your cortisol levels and activate your parasympathetic nervous system that prompts relaxation. Another gem in the stress-reducing arsenal is the art of progressive muscle relaxation. It's convenient and all it needs is a quiet corner and 10 to 20 minutes from your day. Take a moment to visualize your stressors flowing out of your body, starting from your toes and moving up all the way to your head. You can also try yoga and meditation. I insistently recommend Mabel to practice these activities as I noticed that her stress levels dropped noticeably during her stressful exam periods.
Understanding and Implementing Behavioural Changes
Last but not least, behavioral changes. Life will always throw curveballs at us. Sometimes, it's not about avoiding them but learning how to hit them out of the park. Learning to say no, reducing multitasking, and pacing your schedules are all behavioural changes that can drastically reduce stress. At one point, between house chores, blog writing and parent duties, my life was nothing short of manic. That's when I decided to dial it down a notch. Nowadays, I consciously prioritize tasks and delegate whenever I can. Trust me, it was scary at first, but it did wonders to my mental well-being eventually.
It's okay to have bad days, it's okay to be stressed. But when stress becomes a chronic companion, it's time to tango with it in a different way. These lifestyle changes won't happen overnight. As someone who has been there, done that – I can tell you it is a marathon, not a sprint. Patience, persistence and a touch of self-love are the keys to this journey. After all, at the end of the day, it's all about tossing stress out of the window and embracing peace, one breath at a time. Here's to a healthier, less stressed you!