I’m Stressed and I’m Tired!

I’m stressed and I’m tired! How many times have you shouted that during your lifetime? For some of us it has become a daily occurrence, for others not as much. Without much thought we dismiss our feelings and ignore some of the warning signs that our health is also suffering with this constant barrage of stress sources. But what is all of this stress doing to our health? Probably more than we would like to think.

We live in a busy world. It almost seems as if it is a badge of honor to say “I’m busy today.” We look at those who are sitting home with their feet up with two thoughts crossing our busy brains. One, “How can they be so lazy?” and two, “Man, I wish I was them!” What we don’t see at that moment of time is that the one who is not always busy is the one who stands a better chance of maintaining better health. How can that be? Simple, she is the one who is slowing down, relaxing the body and taking a time out.

When we stress the body it turns on certain hormones that can induce inflammation if left unchecked. Those hormones are cortisol and norepinephrine and are activated in times when the body perceives that it must react or escape. This is often termed as the fight-or-flight response. In small amounts these hormones are very helpful. However, in large or uncontrolled amounts they can be harmful.

So if these two hormones are pumping full force all the time, why are you so tired? The body can only produce cortisol and norepinephrine for so long before you start to lose energy. What’s more is that they can create hypertension, irregular menstrual cycles, testosterone depletion, ulcers, and an increased risk of disease. The body has its own agenda to manage and will only handle being pushed hard for so long before it starts to pull in the reigns. For some a simple head cold is enough to slow them down for a couple days, but for others it takes something more serious such as cancer or a heart attack. No one wants either of these so let’s talk about what we can do to change that path.

There is a great deal of science behind the use of meditation to reduce stress. Age appears to be irrelevant for this practice, as those in grade school to the elderly have been studied. Most participants reported a reduction in stress symptoms. The common image of meditation has the participant sitting on the floor, legs folded in to what is called the Lotus position but for most of us looks like the Pretzel position that will require the jaws of life to get out of, and lots of chanting and candles. If this isn’t for you then don’t fret! Meditation can take many forms, even getting out and going for a walk or simply sitting in the park for a few minutes. The idea is to relax the mind and to disconnect from the inputs of stress such as work and technology.

Meditation has also shown to be helpful for treating anxiety disorders, binge eating, cancer, depression, fatigue, heart disease, high blood pressure, pain, and sleep problems. The common denominator for these conditions may very well be stress!

Yoga can be seen as a form of physical meditation and also has the ability to relieve stress. I took a yoga class the other day because I was too busy to do so! I know it sounds contradictory, but that is the best time to take charge and do something to relieve stress. After I felt recharged and I didn’t need the countless published studies to tell me that I had just done something amazing for my body. But it was nice to know that they were there, though, just in case I changed my mind and wanted some science to back up my choice to relax.

Relaxed people are less likely to suffer from chronic disease and to binge eat or drink.  Time with friends, time alone, or time partaking in a special hobby that brings a smile to your face is all fair game. Next time you feel stress rising in your body try this 5-minute activity:

  1. Push away from your desk or sit down for a minute
  2. Place your arms dangling at your side or in your lap with your palms up
  3. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth
  4. As you inhale imagine inhaling some pleasant thought – for some that might be an image of love, your child, your significant other, or a favorite vacation place – and breathe this image deeply in to your core.
  5. Create an image in your mind of whatever is bringing you stress and as you exhale imagine that image leaving with your exhalation.

Just five minutes of stress relief can improve your health and outlook on the day. However, there is a warning here. Stress relief can become addictive and you may find yourself enjoying your life more. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 

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