'Stress - subject to pressure or tension.’
We know it’s bad, we know we don’t like it but what does it actually do? Often the effects of stress are well documented from a mental standpoint. Stress is conceived as a feeling or state, and typically not one that we thrive to be in. However this states goes far beyond our feelings and thoughts. The impact of being in a state of stress is in fact incredibly holistic.
A few examples of how stress can have an impact on our whole system.
Stress can cause the body to hold on to fat cells and contribute to weight gain. Particularly around the stomach and middle section of the body when the stress hormone cortisol builds up. In addition we can see an increase in fat around the heart and other vital organs. With longer term effects such as heart disease and cancer. A recent study found people who suffered from chronic stress at work were at greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which is a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity In addition stress causes destruction to white blood cells and reduce immunity.
And delving deeper into the psychological realms, studies show a direct correlation between stress and anxiety and depression. When stress in present in our system we are in a constant state of flight or flight. Our adrenals are on overdrive and the bodies focus becomes exclusively on the perceived danger (whether literal or imagined) directing attention away from other bodily processes required for healthy functioning.
We can further highlight the importance of not retaining stress when we think about the notion of psychosomatics. In this theory all emotions, feelings and thoughts imprint on the body just as they imprint on our memory. Held in the tissues and muscles and manifesting as a bad back, sore shoulders, heart burn and all the aches and pains we can’t really explain. THIS is the impact of stress.
So the antidote to all this (because of course we are always solution focused here at Hasiko); when we choose activities that promote health and well-being we must make sure we are choosing actives that promote complete health and well-being; mental and physical functioning. We need to ensure we are preventing and healing the stress effects on both a physical and psychological level.
This is why conscious movement such as yoga is great. It is why strength and alignment focused movement such as Pilates is great as the body is not put under more stress but work is built gradually. It is why short intense HIIT sessions work well because they allow you to sweat and detox but without extreme fatiguing. And it is why it is important to nourish your self as well as stay fit and healthy in a traditional physical way.
And in terms of more practical ‘I am stressed out right now help me!’ tools here a few ways to reduce the build-up of stress in the system in small ways every day.
Lots of water. Stress hormones do not survive nearly as well in a hydrated environment. A very wise individual once told me that as soon as we feel thirst we are already dehydrated. It is not the same as hunger and it’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given. Give your body the best chance of rebalance stress levels when they hit by staying hydrated.
Fresh air. Get yourself outside and replenished with fresh oxygen. A long walk in nature can be just as beneficial for reducing stress as any other form of relaxation.
And if you need a really quick fix, deep breaths and long exhales are a great tool to keep in your back pocket. Increasing your exhale kick starts the parasympathetic nervous system telling your body it is OK to relax. So when you feel the stress bug bite and you need an immediate cure, then 10 long deep breaths can be really transformational.
Here’s to a happy and stress managed week ahead Hasiko tribe!