Stress: The New Status Quo

There is a collective urgency in today’s society, a fear of time running out.
 

We are the modern day multi-tasking urbanites. As a result, in our daily life, stress has become intangible. It is tolerated yet it remains elusive. It may be sudden like a snake in the grass or it may be insidious like a tidal wave on the horizon.

Stress has to be handled with optimistic caution, for what you feed into it, evolves from continuous worry, to petrifying fear. We all have a breaking point and every intractable emotion floods inside our body leading to a variety of health concerns. Stress nowadays has become a chronic condition that affects us all.

We are programmed to survive and so we think, adapt, and react. We are clutching at straws and yet becoming grounded and practicing mindfulness contradicts our status quo.
 

Stress is a natural part of life. In response to these daily strains, our bodies automatically increase blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, metabolism, and blood flow to muscles.  However, when this natural response is prolonged or triggered too often without adjustments to counter its effects, it can threaten your health and wellbeing. Too much stress can cause relatively minor illnesses like insomnia, backaches, or headaches, as well as potentially life-threatening diseases like high blood pressure and heart disease. Its equivalent is karoshi, “death by overwork” which is legally recognized in japan as a cause of death since the 1980’s.

We experience stress in a revolutionary fashion in comparison to our ancestors.
 

The modern urbanite does not worry about predators, shelter or famine. He or she concerns themselves every hour with emails, debts, work, relationships and time. Did you know that 75-90% of visits to physicians are stress related? Job stress costs business around 150 billion dollars annually. Each day there are responsibilities, obligations and pressures that challenge us. Our human condition creates such chronic stressors: it is in the mind of the beholder; we make the choice every day, recognizing what serves us and what does not.

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."       William Shakespeare

Stress clouds your judgment, weakens your resolve, ruins relationships, burdens your sleep and hardens your soul.


Then why do we carry it every we go? For it is not the load that breaks you, it is the way you carry it. Stressing for the sake of stress has no inherence value but yet we all too frequently become burnt out.

Our adrenal glands produce a hormone called cortisol, which matches our sleep-wake cycle and is release in response to stress. Cortisol is essentially life sustaining and its effects are felt throughout the entire body.

However, the theory is that with our ever-stressed, fast-paced lifestyle, our bodies are pumping out cortisol almost constantly, which can wreak havoc on our health. Chronic stress over a time period compromises our immune system leading to prolonged healing times, elevated risk to viral infections, decrease in thyroid function, insulin resistance leading to type 2 diabetes and the accumulation of abdominal fat. This hormone is neither good or bad, it is needed in the right doses for us to function at our prime, for without it, we would be lost.

What we cannot cope with in our life, our bodies cope with internally.


Now, every person handles stress differently, but the key is determining your personal tolerance levels for stressful situations. Having the answer to our stress isn’t the challenge; it’s the ongoing habit that continues to hold us back. Habits such as caffeine, alcohol and sleep deprivation all increase cortisol within our body.

The demands of our life are outpacing our current resources and therefore it is essential for us to develop healthy coping mechanisms.
 

This lies in the realm of our own personal concerted effort, and to an extent our present way of living has contributed to this problem and as such it is important that we change our lifestyle, and attitude in order for lasting improvements to occur. Remember that living healthy is about consistency; it is not a day, week, month, or year task. It requires continues commitment that waxes and wanes as we are not perfect and we do choose our battles as we see fit.

There are several tools available to help you on your journey, and here are a few.
 

1.     Examine your life and eliminate all toxic habits or personalities that add to your stress.

2.     All relaxation therapies involve focusing on something other than the thoughts that cause stress. If you find one that works for you, then stick with it. Consider the following: Meditation, Yoga, Visualization, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Exercise, Prayer, Guided Imagery, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, etc.

3.     Breathe into your belly, slow down and complete one task at hand.

4.     Take breaks, maintain a schedule and recharge at the end of the day with a rewarding activity. It’s amazing how creating a ritual as basic as getting regular exercise, or even setting a date night and making a big deal out of it, can change your life.

5.     Exercise has proven in scientific research to be more beneficial than any pharmaceutical medication in raising mood. It provides healthy sleep, digestion, energy and self-esteem!

6.     Put yourself first. Learning to use the word “No” to others can be profoundly liberating because you embrace your intuition. You are your own best health advocate; nobody can do it for you. If you are planning on making a change, then do it, because you said you would.

7.     Be in the present moment. Too often do we find our thoughts dwelling on the past or future. Be here, be now, be you.

 

Simple modifications of habits, thoughts, behaviors, dietary choices and lifestyle go a long way towards reducing feelings of stress. While we may not have control over everything in our life, health choices we make every single day do have a significant influence on the quality of the rest of our life. So stop worrying or you’ll make yourself sick!