Stress: What it Does to Us and How to Be Calm
Stress — we all have it. In small doses, it helps us to motivate, whether that means getting work done because of deadlines, cleaning the house before having guests over, or finishing schoolwork because of an upcoming test.
But when we have a lot of it, stress runs rampant on our bodies, causing physical, psychological, and emotional problems.
Especially during this pandemic — when we are experiencing something we never have before —, stress for many people is high. It’s a scary time, and because it is so uncertain, it’s more important than ever to make sure that you are performing self-care, which includes actively working to reduce stress.
Symptoms of stress
As long as human beings have been around, so has stress. To protect us from danger, our bodies are equipped with the “fight-or-flight” response. When danger is present, our bodies release hormones like cortisol (known as “the stress hormone”) to enable us either to stay and fight or run from the threat. While this worked especially well during caveman times, today, it can still help — if there is an actual threat.
But when the threat is in our minds and we think about questions like “Will I have my job tomorrow? Did I do well on that project? How will we pay our bills? Will I ever find the right significant other? Am I being a good parent to my kids?” and the like, we are activating that same fight-or-flight response, and our bodies are paying the price.
Longer periods of stress can cause our bodies to have lowered amounts of the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which regulate biological processes — everything from our appetites to our sleep patterns and our moods to our sex drive. So when they are lower, these functions are affected. And not in a good way.
How stress affects us
Stress affects our bodies and minds in many ways. Physically, it can lead to problems sleeping, headaches, stomachaches, digestive issues, rapid heartbeat, chest pains, general aches and pains, muscle tension, a decrease in sex drive, feeling exhausted, sweating or cold in the hands and feet, grinding your teeth, clenching your jaw, raising our blood pressure, and more.
Psychologically, stress can make us feel anxious, depressed, tired, restless, overwhelmed, angry, have poor focus and judgment, worry, and be forgetful and disorganized. Emotionally, stress can damage your self-esteem, make you moody, cause you to be agitated easily, make it difficult for you to relax, make you feel lonely, yet make you want to avoid others.
But there are ways to reduce this stress so that you feel better.
Reducing stress, increasing wellness
If you decide that you need to reduce stress, you can make many changes in your lifestyle. Often, not only can these changes help to reduce your stress, but they can also help your overall health as well.
Exercise is one of the most important activities that can lower your stress. Experts suggest that you exercise at least 30 minutes five times a week to get the most benefits. Doing something you like to do so that you’re more inclined to do it.
Changing your diet can also help. Although stress may trigger you, which results in eating foods high in salt and fat, eating better will actually help to lower your stress and make your whole body feel better.
Green tea and B vitamins are found to help us relax as well.
Taking a supplement like CALM, which contains nutrients that may play a role in increasing serotonin and dopamine levels in the body, but that also contains green tea catechins, B vitamins, and SAM-e, can also contribute to a feeling of relaxation and reduce stress.
Whatever way you choose to reduce stress, be sure to take the time to do it. Your body and mind will thank you.
As always, check with your physician or medical provider before adding supplements to your wellness regimen.
By Michele Wojciechowski