When you hear the word stress, what comes immediately to mind?  Is it the stress that comes with peak performance, as an athlete in top shape, running the best race of her life? Or the stress that pumps adrenaline into your body as your sprint to catch your child as he falls off the chair?  Do you see stress as your friend or your enemy?

 

Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined—the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight” reaction, or the stress response. The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life—giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident. But beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and starts causing major damage to your health, your mood, your productivity, your relationships, and your quality of life.

What about you?

Is stress in your life beyond a certain point of being helpful?

Rate the following statements about your life (1 being never to 5 being almost daily) over the last two weeks:

Ways to recognize Stress Never   Often   Almost Daily
I am not sleeping soundly at night 1 2 3 4 5
My shoulders and neck are tense 1 2 3 4 5
I have a reoccurring tension headache 1 2 3 4 5
I have been continually sick and can’t seem to get over it 1 2 3 4 5
I am having trouble concentrating 1 2 3 4 5

If you are experiencing long-term stressful responses (mostly 4-5’s) as the chart above indicates, your body is distributing cortisol and adrenaline at a high rate.  Your brain doesn’t know you’re not in immediate danger and is preparing you for “flight or fight.”

Long term, excess cortisol and adrenaline in your body are linked to a whole host of long-term poor health outcomes for you, such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, gastrointestinal issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome.  Stress is not to be taken lightly.

What are you to do?

Your first step is to acknowledge the presence of stress in your life and pay attention to what part of you is being most affected by the stress response.  Where are you carrying your stress?  Neck and shoulders?  Swirling thoughts?  Knot in your stomach?  Tension headache?  Sleeplessness?

Once you locate the area being affected by the stress response, you can begin to help your body relieve stress in that area, regardless of the stressors, which you may or may not be able to control.

Where do I start?

Adding to an already full plate may feel more stressful.  However, the 5 steps below are baby-step habits to incorporate into your daily life to begin reducing your stress response so that you begin to take your health back.  You have choices – just don’t do everything all at once.  Even one choice can calm your brain and reduce your “flight or fight” stress response.

If you  Then brain-based stress fighters could be:
are not sleeping soundly at night discovering a bedtime routine to calm your thinking – reading, journaling your thoughts, soft music, yoga stretching, and a similar routine each evening to signal to your body it’s time to sleep.  Screen time can excite the brain so stopping an hour before bed is preferable
find shoulders and neck are tense finding gentle yoga and stretching exercises to get blood flowing to those muscles. Also relaxation exercises can help those muscles as well.
have a reoccurring tension headache listening to your reoccurring thoughts before you get your headache.  What thinking preceded your headache?  Is what your thinking an expectation or reality?  What compassion can you have for yourself and the situation that precedes the headache triggers? Check with a doctor to make sure everything else checks out okay.
have been continually sick and can’t seem to get over it listening to your body when you are tired or hurt.  How much have you been pushing?  Give yourself permission to rest and care for whatever your body is telling you it needs
have trouble concentrating pausing for deep breathing exercises throughout the day gives your brain a break. It does wonders for your concentration and mood as you get more oxygen to your body and brain.

These ideas are just the beginning of our journey towards a more simple, less stressful life.  I hope that you’ll explore some of these possibilities to reduce your stress. The future of your long-term health and well-being depend upon it.

I am still looking for more of you help me write good articles for you by filling out in your surveys.  I have gotten good feedback so far and will continue on the emphasis of stress-free living which includes, getting things off our plates, using our time wisely and ways to reduce the overwhelm in our lives.

Let me hear your ideas.  Click on the survey link here if you’ve not already done so. I look forward to hearing from you.

Nancy Booth is a certified life coach and certified brain-based coach.  She loves creating safe spaces for women going through life’s transitions to discover and support their visions for health and well-being in an overwhelming world, explore possibilities for next steps and find hope.  She writes about taming the overwhelm and reducing stress through connecting to yourself and others, possibilities thinking, and brain-based strategies for hopeful living.  You can sign up to receive her weekly blog or contact her to find out ways you can begin to shed overwhelm, explore possibilities and find hope.

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