The Impact of Stress on Your Mind and Body
After reading Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagasaki, I felt an immense responsibility to share the wonderful and eye-opening tools for healing your body that they provide in their book. Understanding how stress affects your body and your overall health will help you better understand how to alleviate stress and heal your body.
Stress is a physiological shift that affects every organ in your body whenever you encounter a threat. When you are stressed, the nervous system instructs your body to release epinephrine and cortisol which increases your heart rate and blood pressure and weakens your immune system. A stressor, however, is whatever is causing you stress: work, a fight with a friend, school, losing a basketball game, watching the news, etc. Just because the stressor is gone does not mean you have relieved the stress. Your body is still full of those activating stress hormones!
The thing about evolution is that when you are stressed your body thinks it is because of a life or death event: like being chased by a saber tooth tiger. When humans used to run away from whatever danger they were facing, their bodies would release endorphins that would calm their nervous systems down and complete their stress cycle. However, today our bodies don’t understand the modern-day stressors. All our bodies know is that we are stressed. If you are stressed out about an exam (the stressor) and then you finish the exam, that, unfortunately, does not mean you have gotten rid of the stress. Simply knowing the stressor is gone is not enough. You have to actively do something that signals to your body that you are safe. In order to get rid of the stress, and complete the stress cycle, you can engage in one of the following activities:
- Physical activity
- Social interaction
- Deep, slow breathing
- Laughter and affection
- Creative activity
Physical activity is the most effective way to relieve stress because it reduces stress hormones and produces endorphins, letting your body know that you are safe. It is important to note that since you encounter stress every day, you should complete the stress cycle every day. That means doing at least one of those above activities for at least 30 minutes a day. You must take care of your body and your health, and you can begin to do that by learning to complete your stress cycle. A few of the reasons why it is so important to deal with stress include because it causes heart problems, weakens your immune system, and makes you lose focus. As well, chronic stress leads to life-threatening illnesses and will kill you. Practicing these strategies will save your life and relieve all of the stress that has been stuck in your body for years.
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