We live in a world that thrives on stress. Especially in our Western culture, where stress is a supposed indicator of how hard you are working, the importance of slowing down and calming the mind has been all but forgotten. It is important to remember the damaging effects that stress can have on your body and learn how you can achieve a relaxed and calm state.
Our Brains and Stress
This hormone called ‘cortisol’ builds up in the brain when we are stressed regularly. According to Touro University Worldwide, cortisol is crucial to regulating blood sugar levels, works with memories within our hippocampus, and helps restore the body to a balanced state after a period of stress. Despite this, too much cortisol build-up in the brain can have devastating consequences on our health.
Cortisol build-up can lead to a number of health problems. One such issue is a cognitive impairment that can lead to an avoidance of social situations and an inability to function socially as an individual did before. But, even more terrifying, stress has a shrinking effect on the prefrontal cortex, a crucial part of our brain that deals with learning, memory, decision making, and more.
Our Bodies and Stress
Chronic stress also causes many health problems physically. When we are under pressure, our respiratory and cardiovascular systems are affected. We begin to breathe heavier and more shallow, causing our hearts to work in overdrive. The increase of stress on our heart can lead to a higher risk of heart attack or stroke.
When we are stressed, we tense up. When our muscles are not allowed a chance to relax, this can lead to chronic headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, and so much more.
Stress can also negatively impact our reproductive systems. Not only are you less likely to feel “in the mood” when stressed, but chronic stress in men can also lead to an overall decrease in testosterone levels, leading to issues such as erectile dysfunction. For women, stress can lead to irregular periods, heavy periods, or a loss in your menstrual cycle altogether.
How to Reduce Stress and Find Calm
Reducing our stress levels is an essential step in achieving overall mental and physical wellness. In the moment of stress, however, it can be challenging to remember to stay calm. Thinking of all how being stressed can negatively affect your health could lead to even more stress! This is why it is so important to practice mindfulness and living within the moment.
Meditation can sometimes get a bad rap. Often considered “hippie nonsense” by older generations, meditation can be very effective in treating stress. This is because meditation can be done by anyone, just about anywhere. According to Mayo Clinic, some benefits of meditation include:
- Gaining a new perspective when it comes to stressful situations
- Becoming more self-aware
- Managing your stress
- Living in the present
- Reducing negative emotions such as stress or anxiety
There are many different forms of meditation. However, the main focus of all meditation is to focus on the breath and live within the present moment to reduce anxiety or stress about future or uncontrollable situations. Even if you are stuck in traffic, taking a moment to practice a mini-meditation exercise such as short guided breathing or another mindful activity can significantly reduce stress.
Other ways to reduce stress are:
- Speaking kindly to yourself when in stressful situations and recognizing what you do and don’t have control over
- Distancing yourself from a stressful situation and taking a break with an activity you enjoy
- Getting your 8-hours of sleep
- Follow the 3-3-3 rule of naming three objects you see, three things you can hear, and three things you can touch.
- Consuming supplements such as Neuroscience’s Calm PRT Capsules which help regulate your stress hormones, alleviate anxiety, and help promote restful sleep
Learning effective strategies to calm your stress is essential for your overall health. While normal stress levels are a part of life, chronic stress can lead to many harmful effects on the body and mind. If you find yourself constantly stressed and unable to cope, speaking to your doctor is always the first step towards taking back your health and finding calm.