Fight or flight? Answering that question was a matter of life and death in ancient times. Today, all it takes is the phone to ring to trigger that same ancient defense mechanism. It’s a false alarm that eats away our energy and, eventually, can make us sick.
Headaches, tension, insomnia, anger, a short temper – there are many symptoms related to stress.
Chronic stress makes people more susceptible to viral infections such as colds and the flu. Some of the more serious illnesses linked to stress include high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis and heart diseases. Latest studies show that stress-related heart attacks are on the rise.
Severe and Long-term Ailments
- Heart diseases & hypertension
- Chronic Pain
- Impaired sleeping
- Weak immune system
Stress is Fear We Can’t Control
Being on high alert all the time also causes mental damage. It creates ‘internal chaos’ that throws us off-balance and becomes exhausting. Eventually, it can lead to fatigue or even burnout.
Stressors become uncontrollable when we don’t find the right answers. The overarching pressure that ensues often leads to depression, and the feeling of being threatened can in the long run cause anxiety disorder.
Stress is Fine If the Dose Is Healthy
That said, the body’s stress response can be positive in the short term: It speeds up the heart rate and lifts blood pressure, causes muscles to flex and our mind to become fully alert – so bring on the challenges!
However, if we constantly operate above the limit, the mechanism that was meant to save our lives in ancient times leads to the opposite: It makes us sick.
It Helps to Exercise – and Not Just Your Body
Physical fitness is key to being resistant to stress. Exercise makes us more alert, focused, receptive and it improves our cognition. We can collect more resources to counter stress, and while our body is working, our mind can find valuable moments of peace.
Exercising our minds can also be healthy. Studies have found that mental training can be just as effective as physical exercise to better cope with stress.
Losing Fear through Mindfulness
Proven techniques from the practices of mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation and autogenic training can improve self-perception.
That way, we’re learning how to let anger and the exhausting brooding pass before they can blanket our body and mind with fear. The techniques can also point us to the weak spots in our body.
Studies have shown that this kind of retreat into our inner consciousness can alleviate pain more effectively than strong painkillers, and it’s also used to treat anxiety disorders. Add to that increased mental performance and stress resistance as well as many other advantages.
Care for Your Body
Stress starts in your mind and then impacts your body. It’s key to be aware of this unity of body and mind if you want to manage stress effectively.
A lack of care for our body will come back to haunt us – for example with tension and pain. Caring for your body can mean very different things, from a balanced nutrition to exercise and mindfulness, all of it building the foundation for effective stress management. The earlier we realize this, the faster we can start a life that’s more free and fulfilled.