Each of us experiences stress differently, so what you may find stressful may not affect the person next to you.

I recently wrote an article exploring the different ways stress can be generated in our life. Today, I am going to define stress and explain how it affects the body and how you can destress your life by engaging some simple techniques.

What Is Stress?

Stress is when you feel tense, worried and overburdened over an issue or when you face a situation that seems larger than life. Stress is your emotional response to the situation – it is not a state of being.

For example, I get stressed when the lady serving me at the shop register talks incessantly to her fellow cashiers, while my husband does not react at all. I realize this is a minor issue, unless I let it get to me. But it is in my control to change how much or whether it affects me.

There are other forms of stress that can be more debilitating and may be out of your control. Stress may come in the form of unpaid bills mounting up or living in a situation where you are too afraid to decide what to do from one day to the next.

If stress is ongoing over a long period of time, it can impact your body negatively both on physical and mental level. Unfortunately, this can often reflect on those around you, even if you don’t realize it.

How Stress Affects Your Body

Stress is often blamed for a variety of health symptoms. In fact, you may actually become blasé about the effect of stress on your body if you are under considerable amount of stress.

Researchers at the Ohio State University conducted a study with 43 married couples asking them about their relationships. Then the scientists encouraged the couples to discuss an issue with the intention of provoking a strong disagreement.

The couples then had their blood tested for a chemical marker known as LBP, which is an indicator of the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream. Couples who had the more intense, nastier rows had the highest levels of LBP.

The study shows that stress caused by such heated discussions can cause stomach contents to leak from the gut into the bloodstream. This can lead to inflammation, thus raising the risk of developing specific illnesses, including diabetes and other autoimmune diseases.

The most common symptoms of stress include headaches, upset stomach (indigestion and bloating), increased blood pressure, trouble sleeping at night and even chest pain and palpitations.

It has been found that up to 90% of all doctor’s visits are linked to stress-related factors. Stress plays a major part in conditions such as migraines, high blood pressure, heart issues, diabetes, skin conditions, depression, asthma and even arthritis.

How You Can Decrease Stress

The most important step in reducing stress is to acknowledge that you are feeling its effects and to recognize that you need to start looking after your body.

My example above, about getting stressed when being served at the supermarket, shows that I am the one causing myself harm, while the lady serving me is oblivious to the anguish she is causing me with her behavior.

To avoid this kind of stress, I now shop at a different supermarket where I do my own self-serving and pack my groceries the way I like them packed. No more avocado at the bottom of the bag!

By acknowledging the situation that was causing me stress, I recognized that I had to find a way to either subdue my reaction or to evade the situation altogether.

Diet plays a big part in how you handle stress. Having sugar spikes and lows can cause you to lose the cool more often than not. This is why I always have a green smoothie every day to make sure I am giving my body the goodness it needs.

Meditation

If de-stressing is not the goal of meditation, it is often a result. People who practice meditation, even if it is hit and miss, extol the virtues of the relaxing response they experience. Studies have shown that short-term benefits of meditating include less perspiration, less anxiety and a greater feeling of well-being.

In the 1970s, Herbert Benson, MD, a researcher at Harvard University Medical School, coined the term “relaxation response” after conducting research on people who practiced transcendental meditation.

The relaxation response, in Benson’s words, is “an opposite, involuntary response that causes a reduction in the activity of the sympathetic nervous system.”

Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself

A simple tip that I often share with women that are new to meditation is to not be so hard on yourself. You do not have to enter Nirvana or other heavenly aspirations of floating on air. Meditation can be a simple act of going for a walk and taking in nature around you.

Even if you live in the city, you will always find a patch of grass, a shrub or a tree. Take time to listen for the chirping of the birds or other sounds that you may not have noticed before because were allowing your mind to wander to negative thoughts or worries.

Take a deep breath, or two, and appreciate what you have. Be thankful and be present.

Do you have a simple technique you use when you find yourself in a stressful situation? I would love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.

Jule-DarganJulie Dargan (RN, ND, BHSc) is the Menopause Whisperer. She assists women going through hormonal changes and want to live each day with confidence and enthusiasm. Her website was created to help women understand the menopause and how to halt the middle age spread.

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