Stress- Health’s Hidden Threat?
Inflammation isn’t solely caused by the food we eat, the sleep we get, or the exercise we endure in a pursuit of health. Our level of stress is often overlooked when we make positive changes. When left unaddressed, stress is toxic to our health.
When we think of stress, an image of a frazzled, angry, busy person comes to mind. Someone in a business suit pacing in their office, or an impatient driver honking and swerving through rush hour. While they exhibit stress, chronic stress can look different.
According to the American Psychological Association, 44% of Americans are chronically stressed. That’s almost half of the U.S. Our (and our children’s) health is greatly impacted by this.. Stress is on the rise, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t take a turn for the better. One of the ways we can combat stress is by recognizing it in ourselves and doing something to change it in our own life. So once it’s recognized, then what?
Is Stress Useful?
Knowing how stress works can be a relief in itself. Believe it or not, stress actually serves a purpose and can be extremely useful. That is one of the two types of stress is useful. Acute stress is our quick stress response, where chronic stress is what almost half of Americans face on a daily basis.
This type of stress has tremendous health and safety benefits, where chronic stress is taking a toll, both mentally and physically. Acute stress is what happens when we need to be on alert. It’s part of our fight or flight response. If a bear is chasing us in the woods, acute stress may enable us to get out of that situation. The bear scenario equates to modern day situations like walking to our car late at night. This causes us to be on high alert, equipped to handle a dangerous situation. It spikes our cortisol, giving us some extra fuel to get the hell out of there.
This type of stress, on the other hand, is when our body is in this position several times throughout the day. A stressful job, stressful family, or worrying about the bills can cause chronic stress. This means that our bodies are constantly releasing cortisol, a hormone that causes us inflammation and unneeded fat storage. When this is happening daily for weeks, months, or years, we start to suffer. Since inflammation is a well known root of disease, extra stress is a big obstacle to overcome. There are, however, many ways we can combat stress.
If you can’t do anything about your job, living situation, or family when it comes to stress, you could go another route by practicing stress regulation with this short guided meditation. Or, try this yoga nidra meditation. Keep these links handy if you’d like to incorporate them regularly. Breathwork and movement are some of the best things we can do to lower stress while lowering our cortisol production, stabilize our mood, and reduce overall stress and its harmful effects on our body and mind.
We can also combat stress and inflammation through diet, movement, and other positive changes. Even supplements can help, like Natural Calm before bed or a stress targeting multivitamin. If you’re working with a functional health practitioner or chiropractor see what they suggest, too. As stress is part of our modern day life, it’s up to us to help recognize it, work with it, and alleviate it.