The Impact of Stress

In today's fast-paced world, everyone is dealing with stress, be it from work, relationships, family pressure, studies, social media, or just the hectic grind of everyday life. It's difficult to find time to relax and reset. It can be stressful to even think about how to reduce stress. 

What is stress? 

According to the Meriam-Webster dictionary, stress is a constraining force or influence: such as a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation. Stress can come from external forces such as environmental or societal forces. It can also be internal, such as illness, or medical procedures. It can initiate the "fight or flight" response, a complex reaction of neurologic and endocrinologic systems.

Stress can directly affect an individuals health and well-being, particularly if this stress is chronic. Stress causes individuals to feel worried, overwhelmed, and run down. It can affect people of all ages, genders, and circumstances and can lead to both physical and psychological health issues. 

Why is this?

Chronic stress triggers the endocrine system response in which corticosteroids are released. While the brain is the core of the enteric nervous system (ENS), the gut is commonly considered as “the second” brain due to the number of neurons attached to it, which allows the digestive system to work independently of the brain. This is also why so many symptoms of and anxiety are digestive related.

When your brain receives a message that you’re overly stressed, the body responds by working overtime to fight off the impending stressors. This negatively affects your body’s blood sugar, energy, and mood levels. Fatigue, gut disorders, changes in mood, are common signs experienced when stressed. This leads individuals to generally gain weight and in some cases lose weight in unhealthy ways. 

Individuals may initially lose their appetite when experience surges of cortisol and adrenaline, but the long-term effects of chronic stress tend to lead to increased appetite, cravings and weight gain. Some individuals may lose weight because the stress hormones direct blood away from the gut to the limbs, to help move quicker in fight or flight instances, and causes some individuals to fidget, move more and hence burn more calories. 

Why does this matter?  

Research shows that chronic stress can contribute to the development of major illnesses and health issues, such as heart disease, memory loss,  depression, a decrease in fertility, digestive issues, and obesity.  Chronic stress if untreated can also trigger long-term harmful emotions like anger, depression, and anxiety.  When the body is constantly battling these negative symptoms, the gut cannot properly function, and you may experience a lack of nutrient absorption, decreased enzymatic output, and reduced levels of oxygenation.  

How to reduce stress? 

1. Believe in your strength.

You are stronger, smarter, and greater than whatever comes your way. You have to know that. You have to believe that. You have to declare that each and every day.

2. Practice your reaction.

When things get stressful, the tendency is to tighten up, freak out from fear, and run. Thus, FEAR has been said to stand for: Forget Everything And Run. The alternative is a learned response. It takes practice to relax and stay calm in the heat of the moment. Meditation or yoga are great practices to simulate intense feelings in a safe environment and breathe through rather than react to.

3. Be mindful of your environment.

If you surround yourself with a bunch of stressed out and negative people, you will probably become more stressed out and have a more negative outlook, too. So seek out people who are cool, calm and collected. This can be challenging. We become very comfortable with what is familiar. So if stressed out people are familiar to us, we might have to push the boundaries to move into uncharted (and more relaxing) social territory. Next time you're thinking of who you'll make weekend plans with, think of the most genuine and happiest people you know, and spend a little time in their relaxing vibration.

4. Be generous.

Stress is a pattern of events, a downward spiral. And to pull out of it, sometimes you need to take powerful, deep, and beautiful measures. In the midst of your stress, be really generous. It might be the last thing you'd consider when getting squeezed, but it busts up the pattern and can send you spiraling into a better day. As Marianne Williamson said, "The only thing missing in any situation is that which you are not giving."  

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