The short answer is: your body is either in survival mode or healing mode and there’s not much in between and simply put, stress puts your bod into survival mode and relaxation allows healing mode to kick in. So, if you’re stressed out, your body can’t properly heal and recover. This isn’t necessarily bad for you, in fact acute stress is a natural thing and may even have its own benefits to your health. But, that’s a conversation for another day!
Acute stress is typically a situation where you are presented with an immediate danger and must react quickly to survive AKA “fight or flight”. You’ve probably experienced this while driving when someone swerves in front of you and you have to make a split second action to avoid a crash.
A lot of physical changes happen in that split second. Adrenaline spikes to increase you reflexes. our pupils dilate so you can see better. Your heart rate increases to allow more blood flow to your muscles and brain so you can think faster and are stronger. Those are just a few examples!
As you can imagine, you don’t want to be in that highly excited state for every long though or it will start to take a toll on your heart, your vision, your muscles and many other functions.
This is where stress starts to have more negative effects on your health.
Imagine that you are driving 20 hours a day and people are swerving in and out randomly all the time so you are constantly in fight or flight mode – ready to react. Seems crazy, right? The truth is, you may be experiencing that more than you think.
In a typical day, most people are confronted with these swerving people on and off the road. Consider how often you feel jumpy around your boss, maybe worried about how they will react to the job you’re doing. Coworkers too. Do you have difficult and erratic people in your life who you just never know what kind of mood they will be in so it sets you on edge? Work deadlines, busy stores with long lines, stressed out family and friends, even the shows you watch on tv (like the news and horror films) and all of the obligations that you are reactive to during your day can result in chronic stress which doesn’t allow your body to switch off the adrenaline and recover.
It’s crucial for you to have recovery time though or illness starts to rear its ugly head.
It may start as feeling tired a lot, relying on caffeine and sugar to get through the day until you fall into bed with a mental list of all the things you need to do tomorrow stressing you out still. Then, it likely shows up as headaches, digestive issues, hair loss, skin problems and weight gain or weight loss.
Pretty soon it manifests as more serious conditions like heart disease and cancer. Terrible results from something so easy to change!
So, what can you do to avoid going down that road of deteriorating health and premature aging? So much! And it’s so simple!
Here are 3 things to start with and then I want to hear from you in the comments with other ideas and questions, okay?
1. Set aside quite time for meditation, journal, exercise or napping.
Simply allowing yourself a pocket of time during the day with no demands can be highly restorative. I especially like to set this time aside first thing in the morning or last thing before bed (or both!) for the most benefit.
Having quiet time in the morning can gift you the grace to start your day feeling calm, collected and competent – with a plan of action and control over your day so you accomplish what you require rather than reacting to things you get no benefit from.
At night, it’s a gorgeous way to bookend the day and allow your sleep to be even more restful.
2. Eat well.
Eating highly nutritious foods not only gives your body exactly what it needs to heal in those relaxed moments but it’s delicious! The pleasure you receive from a gorgeous meal can instantly put you into a relaxed state as well.
3. Find the gift in a stressful situation.
When you’re feeling pressure, panic and fight or flight, it’s difficult to see the gift that’s there in the mess but if you can start to use that feeling of stress as a cue to take a deep breath and ask yourself, “What is here for me to receive?” you can begin to change your perception and reaction to events.
Even in very negative situations there is an opportunity to learn something or even just to be loving, forgiving and accepting – which are great muscles to exercise and don’t get much use in easy situations, do they?
Going back to the traffic example, if someone cuts you off in traffic, of course you will need to react quickly and avoid that crash! But, after the crisis is over, instead of holding on to that anger, frustration and stress, you can practice that simple mantra “What is here for me to receive?” and forgive that other person. Perhaps they are on their way to the hospital, running late to an important appointment or have diarrhea and need to get to a bathroom ASAP! Receive the peace that comes with forgiveness in that moment rather than letting that crisis carry on and cause you more injury.
If it sounds like too much to take on all three of these tips, I invite you to try just one of them and let me know what challenges pop up for you around it so I can assist you. Just leave me a comment below!