Stress – just hearing that word can conjure up negative feelings and emotions!
Stress itself is not necessarily an un-healthy thing, after-all, without our ancestors reacting to threats via their “fight or flight” instinct, we wouldn’t even be here.
It’s chronic stress that is the real foe.
When it comes to learning requiring the use of memory, chronic stress is a killer. It has devastating effects on both learning and memory with children being particularly affected.
Stress triggers negative reactions in the immune system and contributes to inflammation. Inflammation is linked to an array of health concerns and diseases – everything from diabetes to cancer, asthma and heart disease.
Past studies prove that the hippo-campus (the brain’s memory center) experiences an 8 percent shrinkage – as the result of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Chronic stress not only affects the way we feel and act, but affects the way we look! Many physiological processes are negatively affected and some are actually turned off by the stress response. Breathing and heart-rate increase, glucose is released (for immediate energy) and adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) flood the body.
Lack of blood flow to the skin, immune system functions, digestion, growth and reproduction are all put on hold.
This lack of blood flow to the skin affects how old we look.
But even worse than loss of blood flow, is how chronic stress affects the aging brain.
Toxins, poor diet, no exercise or social connections and repetitive routines all contribute to the loss of brain cells as we age but chronic stress exacerbates the issue. It actually kills brain cells.
Weight gain can result from chronic stress because digestion is dialed down during a stress response, leading to a variety of digestive disorders. Constipation, cramping and diarrhea can all be the result.
It’s very clear that if we want to age gracefully and enjoy stellar health, chronic stress must be managed.
Here’s some stress relief help:
1. Increase social engagement. The mere act of sharing your daily woes with others is a great way to bring your troubles down to size and put them into perspective. Once you realize you are not the only person to have to deal with crazy situations and people you will feel a lot better about your lot in life.
2. Do more physical activity. Once again, exercise comes to the rescue. Adding moderately intense physical activity to your life is a great way to lower the level of circulating cortisol in your body and decrease stress.
3. Watch shows that make you laugh. It is very difficult to laugh and also be stressed out at the same time.
4. Get more sleep. Lack of sleep is a great way to amplify the little stresses in life and make them seem intolerable. If you are sleep deprived, look for ways to hit the pillow sooner. A great night of sleep can make a world of difference to your outlook on life.
5. Eat better. It may sound strange to hear nutrition mentioned when it comes to stress reduction. But one of the consequences of high stress is that your body prioritizes the production of cortisol over the synthesis of other important hormones that your body needs to properly regulate itself.