Your heart racing before a big test.
The butterflies in your stomach before a first date.
Being energized to complete a work assignment.
What do all of these events have in common? They are all reactions to stress!
WHAT IS STRESS?
Stress gets a bad rap for causing overwhelming anxiety, strain, and burnout. But we’re here to drop a bombshell: not all stress is bad. In fact, stress, in moderation, can drive our body to accomplish incredible things.
Stress is the body’s natural response to our daily activities and interactions – both good and bad. It promotes growth, challenges us, and provides that push forward to achieve great feats. From an evolutionary standpoint, stress hormones serve a very important purpose. Back in prehistoric times, these hormones enabled humans to dodge predators and react quickly to threats.
Unfortunately, in the modern world, we experience stress more than our bodies were meant to stand, often the undesirable, exhausting type which produces harmful side effects including headaches, anxiety, and sleep deprivation.
LET’S BREAK IT DOWN
Alright, so we’ve established “what” stress is, but how does it work? Basically, when you encounter a stressful situation, your body releases two hormones: cortisol and adrenaline, initiating what is commonly called our “fight or flight response.” Cortisol shuts down nonessential functions like your gastrointestinal tract and reproductive system so that your body can focus on increasing the readily available sugar in the bloodstream. This blood is then used by your brain and muscles to solve the problem at hand.
But a little stress goes a long way.
The issue is, these elevated hormones result in increased anxiety, fatigue, and insomnia because the brain is overstimulated. Dealing with stress SHOULD be a self-limiting process, meaning: your body should be able to resume normal functioning once the stressor has been resolved (i.e. finishing that big test, completing that work assignment and the end of a first date that just might lead to a second).
Unfortunately, our current culture is crowded with stressors that don’t allow our body to come down. This causes a constant release of hormones and creates a continuous stress cycle – chronic stress. Between social media and the endless news cycles, it’s no surprise that stress is becoming increasingly problematic, especially for young women. Perhaps unsurprisingly, women are reportedly twice as likely to develop an anxiety disorder than men.
Stress can do some real damage. Over time, chronic stress may result in permanent damage to the body through depression, anxiety, heart problems, migraines, weight changes, and menstrual alterations.
We understand all this stress talk can be scary. But you can stop the cycle by using tactics that help you cope and mitigate stress’ side effects.
PUT THE BRAKES ON CHRONIC STRESS
For starters, take a deep breath, Betties. (No, really!) Breathing has been repeatedly demonstrated to reduce anxiety and lessen stress. Deep – or diaphragmatic – breathing is often recommended by psychologists and doctors to increase air flow to your body and thus calm your nerves. Other benefits include reducing pain and improving attention span. Bringing awareness to your body and where you are harboring tension is an important step in combatting stress.
Scale Back & Unplug
Next, try to ease off the pressure you put on yourself. When you can, scale back your schedule, schedule some downtime, and be sure to unplug every day.
Focus on Today
Here at Betty’s, we think it’s really important to focus on one day at a time. To be successful with this approach, establish a list of short and long-term goals. These healthy practices could include physical exercise, relaxation, sleeping, journaling, counseling, social interaction, spiritual guidance, and self-care. All of these activities have been demonstrated to make positive differences in our daily lives which will enable us to achieve manageable and positive stress levels.
Stress is natural, but making it manageable can start by talking to someone.
Betties: it’s natural to feel a little overwhelmed some days. And TBH, a little positive stress drives us to be successful! But when you feel like it’s taking away from your enjoyment and health, it’s definitely not serving you well. When that’s the case, it’s important to take a break, calm down, and try out some coping mechanisms.
Unsure whether your stress levels are normal? We’ve got you! Betty’s Co. is proud to announce the launch of our virtual clinic on July 7th – meet with a counselor who can help you identify problematic stress and equip you with the tools to manage. Scroll to the “Care” tab to schedule an appointment with us now!