Most everyone I know is suffering from a condition I like to call “Stressed to the Max!” and I think we could all use a little help in learning to handle our stresses better. A person can only handle so much stress before we end up getting sick or “blowing a gasket” as my mom used to say. Last year was one of our family’s most stressful years in quite a while – it seemed like every time we were beginning to get a handle on something, another thing would come along and ruin what little progress we had made.
We have had a less stressful January, but are still suffering from some of the fall-back from last year, which causes some stress that needs to be dealt with in a prompt manner. Chronic stress can cause many serious health issues including anxiety, depression, digestive issues, sleep issues, weight gain, and heart disease, so dealing with stress is important to our health, both long term and immediate. Did you know that chronic stress can cause the aging process (and wrinkles!) to speed up? I don’t need any help in aging, thankyouverymuch! Stress causes increased cortisol in the body. Cortisol is released in response to fear or stress by the adrenal glands as part of the fight-or-flight mechanism, but when that stress is constant, the cortisol is constant, and that is when it causes problems.
Cortisol shrinks the thymus gland – one of the key immune regulators in the body – and inhibits white blood cell activity and production. It can actually signal immune system cells to shut down and die. Prolonged exposure can cause the same immune system cells to attack the body’s own tissue leading to autoimmune diseases.
Cortisol also inhibits the growth of beneficial microflora in the intestines. These essential bacteria support the immune system, create B vitamins, and increase the absorption of minerals like calcium, iron, and magnesium. A decrease in their population results in more colds, sore throats, headaches, diarrhea, upset stomachs and the overgrowth of harmful bacteria and fungus like candida.
So how can we lessen our stress and help alleviate that constant flow of cortisol from our bodies? I’ve come up with 15 ways to de-stress.
15 Ways to De-Stress
- Play with animals.
- Give generously. This doesn’t necessarily mean just give your money, you can also give your time or talents!
- Listen to classical music.
- Eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep.
- Practice relaxation techniques or learn to meditate.
- Foster healthy friendships. Friends make everything better!
- Express yourself creatively. Adult coloring books are all the rage now and it’s a great way to de-stress, even if you aren’t “creative”.
- Practice yoga, tai chi, or other expressive dance forms.
- Get regular massages – massage helps work muscle tension out of your body and allows your body to detox all the stress toxins.
- Attend religious services.
- Drink hot tea while reading or taking a hot bubble bath.
- Lift weights.
- Take a walk (or run) alone.
- Have sex!
If you have done all of these things and are still struggling with chronic stress you may need to seek professional counseling.
Do you have any ways of releasing stress from your life? Please share your tips with us!!