Stress: Portrait of a Killer

I was recently asked to give a talk on well-being and I chose to focus my topic on the effects chronic stress and counterbalancing techniques. Seeing that stress is a part of our everyday lives, I figured it would be of interest to my entire captive audience. As I was doing some extra research, I came across this lovely documentary on the effects of stress in 21st Century human life. Robert Sapolsky has been studying the effects of chronic stress for more than 30 years. Going back and forth from California to Africa, Sapolsky has significantly researched the reasons why we stress, how this stress is literally killing us, and how it can be managed.

As we’ve evolved, the human stress response has saved our lives. Today, we turn on the same life-saving physical reaction to cope with intense, ongoing stressors – and we can’t seem to turn it off. “Stress: Portrait of a Killer” reveals just how dangerous prolonged exposure to stress can be.

As my acupuncturist tells me, stress cannot be avoided – but must be managed so that it does not take over. This is very wise advice. Unfortunately, many of us do not take it on a regular basis.

Chronic Stress
A state of ongoing physiological arousal. This occurs when the body experiences stressors with such frequency that the autonomic system doesn’t have adequate chance to balance itself. As a result, the stress response becomes more dangerous than the actual stressor.

Chronic stress kills brain cells, shits down digestion, increases fat deposits in the abdomen and damages chromosomes leading to premature aging. Here are some other lovely things connected with chronic stress:

Most Common Health Issues Associated with Chronic Stress:
Cardiovascular disease and Hypertension – only 50% of heart attack sufferers have high cholesterol – what’s going on with the other 50%?
Depression and anxiety – women are more susceptible to this!
Women – infertility, irregular cycles
Frequent colds
Sleeplessness + fatigue
Trouble concentrating
Memory loss
Changes in appetite – digestive problems and Ulcers
hair loss
damaged collagen in the skin leading to breakouts / sensitivity / premature aging

We may not be able to automatically shut down the stress response, but we can do things that turn on the relaxation response, thus counterbalancing the stress response and reducing or avoiding chronic stress situations. The Relaxation Response is the opposite of the “fight or flight” response during stress. It counterbalances the effects of stress by decreasing heart rate, lowering blood pressure and returning the body to a state of relaxation. In certain stress situations, the relaxation response is automatically triggered after the perceived threat is gone, However, as stated earlier, many of us stay in a stressed state and the relaxation response doesnt happen automatically, In most cases, we need to do things on a regular (daily) basis that trigger the relaxation response in order to properly manage stress.

What triggers the Relaxation Response? Self-Care
Most forms of Exercise (yoga is great)
Healthy and Fun Social Interactions
Facials, Massage and body care
Deep Breathing
Reading for fun
Being in Nature

There a 3 Keys to Success when counterbalancing stress with “self-care”
Needs to be Done Daily
Needs to be Scheduled (not multi0tasked or hurried)
Needs to be something you enjoy

The Benefits of Self Care: Reduction in Stress by triggering the Relaxation Response:
Increased self confidence
Increased productivity
Increased immune function

What can you do to incorporate self-care into your schedule?

For more information on stress, check out these posts:

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  1. […] minutes to work their magic. 5.   Try to find something relaxing to do (or not do) while masking. I wrote an article on stress a little while back that talked about the importance of taking time out…make that 30 minute mask time a nice […]

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