Consciously allowing the mind and body to relax promotes good health and a better quality of life, and if practiced regularly can even help people face stressful situations more positively.
Why is it important to address stress?
Meeting the challenges of a complex world can be tough, especially when life appears overwhelming. It is particularly important during these winter months to make time to re-address your relationship with the things in life that drain your energy and lead to stress.
Stress touches all corners of our lives including work and relationships, with long-term alarming health consequences if left unaddressed. The American Psychological Association's annual survey in 2012 revealed that the U.S was on the 'verge of a stress-related public health crisis' and Ireland is not far behind, as people suffer chronic health issues related to lifestyle. Indeed, The World Health Organisation (WHO), recognises workplace stress as a global epidemic.
Why is stress so bad for us? Normal stress is a state during which physiological changes occur in order to enable the body to perform its functions for survival in the world. Over short periods of time stress reactions can be productive; for instance, the bodily changes that take place before a competition or exam can release the necessary chemicals and hormones to propel us into motion and focus our minds. If, however, this adrenaline rush is sustained over long periods, then the body is under a constant state of alarm, which will eventually cause a depletion of vital energy, and a person’s health will begin to deteriorate.
Many people have become so accustomed to high levels of stress that they are in a perpetual reactive state, poised to deal with life’s challenges; in other words, constantly ‘stressed out’! Over time the body is put under extreme pressure and consequently signs of physical and emotional in-balance become apparent. Research is now suggesting that prolonged stress has a considerable impact upon the development of many illnesses, including: cardiovascular disease, cancer, endocrine and metabolic disease, skin disorders and infectious aliments of all kinds. It may even produce the following physiological reactions: elevation of blood pressure, accelerated heart beat, inhibited digestion, increased muscular tension, a compromised immune system (predisposing the body to infection and disease) and nutritional deficiencies. Stress also has a major effect on psychological difficulties, such as depression and anxiety, and it can be responsible for (or exacerbate) a lot of back problems, fatigue, chronic headaches, irritability, memory loss, lowered sexual drive, and insomnia.
There are many different ways of dealing with stress ranging from relaxation exercises, to going for a walk in the woods.
Obviously, the preferred option is to remove the root cause of the problem; but if this is not possible, it is crucial that you implement some simple practises into your life to help counter the negative side effects of stress, and enable the body to restore balance. Scientific research has confirmed that the regular practice of mindfulness can have a significant impact upon our health & well-being. It can boost the immune system, reduce stress, increase energy & improve memory. It can also ‘unlock’ confidence, inspiration & a renewed sense of purpose.
Meditation and breathing exercises have become universally recognised as ways to calm and focus the mind and sooth the nervous system. If a few minutes of every day are dedicated to such activities it is possible to free up energy, be more creative, adventurous and happy. Consciously allowing the mind and body to relax promotes good health and a better quality of life, and if practiced consistently it can help people face stressful situations more positively.
Other ways of countering the negative side effects of stress include: regular vigorous exercise, introducing a healthy diet, having some kind of body work / massage therapy and counselling. Exploring more vitality-enhancing lifestyle options (including managing technology), and compassion for self & others (building positive relationships) can be fun & rewarding. Some ‘stressed out’ people find relief from simply making more time in their lives for quality time with family, partner or friends. Laughter, above all else, will dissipate stress and elevate mood surprisingly quickly.
If you are finding that stress has begun to significantly affect your health, it may be important to see your health-care provider. However, there are many things that you can do in your everyday life to significantly reduce your stress response.