I’m not going to sugar coat this for you… chronic stress is massively dangerous to your physical health. But you can do something about it today – right this second! I will share 3 categories of things you can choose to do NOW which will improve your life.
Am I in a state of chronic stress?
You may know the answer to this straight away. Maybe you’re on the fence? Chronic stress can occur when we’re in an unhappy relationship, struggling with a crazy job, suffering with poor health or have money problems. Chronic stress can really take you over when you have repeated instances of acute stress over time.
What’s acute stress? An adrenaline reaction to a specific upsetting event – you’ll have felt it after an argument when your adrenaline and noradrenalin spikes and your body needs time to calm down after that stress response.
Chronic stress can occur when you can’t see an escape from a cause of stress and you stop seeking solutions. Chronic stress can go unnoticed and we can feel as though we’ve just got used to that state of being – as though you’ve acclimatised and become resilient to it.
Does any of this ring a bell with you? If it does, this is a dangerous place to be because we simply don’t recognise how much it is physically damaging us…
BUT you don’t have to get used to it, you can make a change and there are solutions for you so that you can Lead a Better Life! Read on…
Don’t forget, stress is subjective so we are all different and deal with life’s stressors in different ways – don’t compare yourself to others… for example past experiences can affect how you react to day to day stressors which may make you more susceptible to chronic stress. You’re human, it’s ok.
Bad News – Chronic Stress is Simply Awful
Yes, I’m sorry to say chronic stress causes massive negative physical (and psychological and behavioural) consequences – many of which are directly linked to the release of glucocorticoids (try spelling that in a rush!) such as cortisol.
So I’m going to focus on cortisol for you… you may have heard of this complex stress hormone (many people have) and I’m here to share that, biologically, cortisol is essential for our survival BUT only when levels are appropriate. It’s often highest in the morning to help us get out of bed (I definitely appreciate that!) … so what do I mean by ‘appropriate?’
Well, we have resting cortisol levels – you know, normal levels for normal biological functions like blood pressure control, immune system functioning, metabolism of fats, wake/sleep cycles… I could go on. Needless to say, it’s important.
But when we encounter a stressor we get a reactive level of cortisol burst through our body – again this is fine as long as the body can go back to those resting levels.
Short term effects of cortisol are:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased blood sugar (not great if managing diabetes)
- Slower digestive processing and suppression of the body’s rest and digest mechanism (exacerbates the symptoms of IBS as food will move through the body more quickly)
- Increased pain (both in frequency and intensity)
We can manage these short term effects as long as your body can balance back to normal levels shortly after the event. The problem occurs when we have a prolonged level of cortisol which creates excess cortisol and that really affects our physical wellbeing. This imbalance of cortisol is what makes chronic stress dangerous.
Prolonged cortisol release can cause:
- Cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol
- Reduction in white blood cells
- Susceptibility to infections and poor recovery and healing
- Weight gain and increase in visceral fat around your organs
- Hormonal imbalances
- Reductions in fertility
- Memory problems due to degradation of your hippocampus
Question – do you read the same email at work 10 times before you can actually take it onboard? You know, you just can’t retrieve and consolidate it? Or is your short term memory simply pants and you feel absent minded? That’s likely caused by prolonged cortisol release due to chronic stress…
And needless to say there are a multitude of psychological and behavioural implications such as disrupted sleep, paranoia, shame, depression, introspection, anger, burnout, lack of focus, addiction, altered eating habit… oh dear, what a list.
Let’s take a pause there!
Good News – You Can Change!
So I’ve bombarded you with all the crappy, horrific stuff (sorry about that) … now for the bit I love. You can change this! Yes, you read it correctly – YOU CAN CHANGE THIS.
If you relate to the section above, or can see it in someone you love, this does not have to be the future. I’ll share with you 3 things you can do right now, today, to make a change.
1. Decide to do more of what helps and less of what doesn’t help.
This is not meant to be patronising or simplistic. It really will help you cope with stress – do you enjoy exercise, spa days, time with friends, baking, volunteering at a donkey sanctuary, making paper mâché Tracey Islands (too niche?)… whatever it is – focus your energy on that, identify it and make time to do it and do it. Don’t prioritise poor lifestyle habits, negative ruminations or staying at work until 9pm over it… look after yourself. Sometimes someone has to tell you that, right?
2. Choose to do a simple, small practical thing which reduces cortisol levels.
I’ve just completed these myself in a 7 Day ‘Stop the Stress’ Challenge and you can learn more about each tip and see how I got on via my FB page (www.facebook.com/oakviewhypnotherapy). You could even choose to start your own 7 Day Challenge today and find even better, personalised things in your life along these lines!
- Listen to a relaxing piece of music
- Drink a cup of black tea
- Take care of a pet
- Go for a walk or pump some iron
- Enjoy an Epsom Salt bath
- Laugh like a child
- Practise deep breathing
Plus a BONUS one…
- Take up gardening – this is a great way to combat elevated stress hormones, it calms your mind, distracts you and is a low intensity form of exercise which will reduce cortisol levels.
3. Contact me!
In case you’d forgotten I’m a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist who specialises in combatting anxiety and stress as well as optimising sleep so that you CAN Lead a Better Life. Decide now is the time to take action, be courageous and try Solution Focused Hypnotherapy; it can help you achieve lasting change by adjusting your thoughts, reactions and habits so that you don’t have to live with chronic stress.
Call me on 07480 045290 or drop me an email [email protected]. I’d be delighted to help you Lead a Better Life by banishing chronic stress.