Why De-Stressing Is More Than Just A Lifestyle Choice

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The experience of stress is presented to us these days almost as something that we need to accept as part of life. Indeed, even the concept of de-stressing is viewed as a lifestyle choice: call it what you want, be it self-care, pampering or anything else, but it often feels as though you’re just expected to accept that stress is going to be there. It’s a negative experience and we all wish it didn’t happen, but hey, it’s a good excuse to buy scented candles.

The truth of the matter is that stress really isn’t something we should accept and wave away with the promise of self-care. The truest form of self-care is seeking to eliminate stress altogether. And that sounds difficult, because it is, but let’s imagine for a moment that you had asbestos in your loft. You know how dangerous asbestos is, and all the health issues it can cause, so even if it took a lot of time and money to have it removed, you’d go ahead and get it out of there. Well, let’s look at some of what stress can do to you, and why it’s important to see de-stressing as more than just a lifestyle step, but an essential decision.

Stress messes with your hormones

One of the primary responses to a stressful situation sees our bodies produce more of a hormone known as cortisol. Cortisol has its uses – it stimulates our energy production and our focus, allowing us to act decisively in perilous situations. However, it is not meant to be produced in large quantities on an ongoing basis, and when it is present for a prolonged period it leads to imbalances – the results of which can get pretty serious.

Particularly in men, an overproduction of stress hormones can lead to increased hair loss. While this is something that can be handily treated with a course of Regaine or similar, it’s no surprise that the issues don’t end there. Weight gain and high blood pressure are both significant risks from stress-related hormonal imbalance. So, too, is insomnia. And even if all of these sound like quite nebulous threats, bear in mind that these hormonal imbalances can cause you to be more prone to infections – something you can’t battle with positive thinking. For women, there is also the significant concern of what stress can do to the menstrual cycle – periods can be delayed, lighter, heavier or even missed entirely.

Stress can cause and aggravate digestive issues

It’s thankfully less prominent these days, but there is a mindset that considers stress to be something that is “all in the mind”. Even if that were true, something that affects your mind can be awful to deal with. But also, it’s definitely not true. Stress has been proven to affect human digestion in a number of ways, and it shouldn’t even be a surprise given how we often refer to stressful situations.

We all know the phrase “to have butterflies in your stomach”. It refers to a situation of nervous anxiety where it feels as though our stomach is unsettled and jumpy. The reason it feels that way is that our digestive system is home to a system of nerve endings and neurons that is larger and more intricate than any outside our brains. In times of particular stress, the blood flow is redirected away from the stomach, compromising its ability to process food, and this can cause and aggravate a wide range of disorders from IBD and GERD, all the way through to stomach ulcers – which can be serious enough to have fatal consequences.

Stress affects the heart

As we’ve already noted, the impact of stress on the mind and body has far-reaching consequences, many of which are to do with hormones and other compounds. These ingredients make their way around the body in the bloodstream, and when we are experiencing stress and its myriad health effects, it should come as no surprise that the heart is performing at a higher intensity than usual. Monitor your pulse during a time of extreme stress and you’ll see that it is hugely accelerated. It won’t be a surprise to learn that this affects the functionality of the heart itself.

For one thing, overwork is detrimental to the function of any bodily organ, including the heart. The organ itself is weakened, but that’s just part of the issue. With increased cortisol production, along with the increase in blood pressure will come higher levels of blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol. All of these are potential contributing factors to both heart disease and an increased likelihood of heart attacks. The narrowing of blood vessels that results is also a factor of concern for other serious issues including strokes. All in all, prolonged stress has serious consequences.

So what is the solution?

De-stressing is a vitally important aspect of life, far more important than the way we often talk about it may make it seem. Self-care has come to mean occasional spa trips and binge-watching something new on TV, and both of those things are worthwhile, but won’t make much of a difference on their own. Truly de-stressing will mean a change of mindset: yes, work is important, but it must remain within work hours and not be brought home; problems need to be brought out into the light and solutions found, rather than trying to suppress the worry you’re going to feel no matter what.

It may be impossible to live a life that is free from stress – it’s a downside of having emotions. The essential lesson you need to learn is that stress does its real damage when it is allowed to build. You may not relish the idea of talking to a boss or a friend and asking for help or understanding about a commitment you might need to rethink. However, think about it in terms of the stress you can lift off of you, and the health problems that stress could otherwise cause. It’s not weak or selfish to focus on yourself when you’re stressed – it’s for the best, for everyone.


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