Simply stated, stress is the body’s and the brain’s way of responding to any kind of demand. Based on this definition, it becomes clear that stress affects everyone especially during the holidays.
Three things to know about stress
- Not all stress is bad. Stress in its beneficial form keeps us alert, aware and focused. If you are in physical danger, your stress response equips you with everything you need to quickly respond and remove yourself from physical danger. If you have an upcoming test or an interview stress motivates you to prep, study or review to do your best. In these forms, stress is productive and protective.
- Negative stress happens when the demand creates a sense of feeling overwhelmed beyond our current ability to cope. The demand can be physical like an illness or a broken bone, psychological or emotional like grief, sadness or environmental such as witnessing or being involved in a traumatic event. Negative stressors can include sudden losses such as loss of a job or someone close to you or can be repetitive such as doing something you dislike on a daily basis
- Prolonged or repeated stress can negatively impact your health. The same stress response that helps us to get out of danger quickly, if left unchecked can turn rogue and suppress our immune system and increase our levels of unhealthy inflammation. Chronic stress can increase our risk of illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, anxiety and depression. It can also leave us susceptible to viral illnesses such as the common cold. Signs of stress varies from individual to individual and can include headaches, irritability, trouble digesting, overeating, undereating, muscle aches and tension and insomnia to name a few.
Three tips to help cope with stress
- Practice Tai Chi. I believe that every intervention should have at least one is focused on prevention and long term benefits and Tai Chi seems to be such an intervention. Tai Chi is often referred to as “meditation in motion.” Tai Chi has shown significant heart benefits. It is considered a form of aerobic exercise and is easily adaptable to your level of fitness and health. Some of the benefits include improved blood pressure, blood circulation, improved sleep and improved moods.
- Deep breathing exercises, yes they are called exercises. Research and experience have proven the benefits of taking slow, deep intentional breaths to mitigate the effects of a strong stress response. It couldn’t be easier- take a deep breath in through the nose for at least to count of 4, hold briefly then slowly exhale while thinking the words relax, peace or whatever word brings you a sense of calm. Repeat five to ten times at watch the stress melt away
- In every life a little passive intervention is a must. My passive stress strategy lemon balm, chamomile tea and a lavender essential oil diffuser in my office.
Another thing to consider is have a simple recording that brings a smile to your face. My go to is a recording of my children’s laughter as babies. There is nothing more pure and joyous to me than a baby’s laugh. After all, laughter is good medicine.