Thursday, December 22, 2011

Stress Effects on Your Body!

The holidays have rolled around again and with the holidays comes the stress associated with work deadlines and end of the year duties, hosting family get gatherings, listening to Aunt Martha's "original" stories you've heard a million times, shopping for the perfect gift for Uncle Ted (the man who has everything), and managing the holiday finances with enough cheer and finesse to officially put you over-budget in the New Year. Not to mention the added stress if the In-Laws come to visit!

But the real problem isn't the frazzled cook in the kitchen or the awkward silence at the table. It's the things that happen in your body while you're under this stress. Now you're asking yourself, what IS happening? So lets start with the basics.

What is stress?
A normal physiological response to a situation that has made you feel threatened or upset. Your body goes into a "fight or flight" mode and your body kicks into defensive overdrive where your physiological responses are heightened and quick. This can be great if you're about to be attacked by a tiger, but if that "tiger" is currently living in your guest room for the next three days it can really take a toll on your body to be on edge for three days straight.

What can be affected by stress?
Health conditions such as pain, headaches, jaw pain, high blood pressure, heart disease, digestive complaints, sleep problems, depression, auto immune disorders, asthma, arthritis, and skin conditions can be exacerbated or even caused from excessive and/or chronic stress. In addition, Vitamin C and Chromium (a necessary nutrient that helps to balance glucose metabolism, maintain healthy blood sugar, and even effect the menstrual cycle in women) stores in your body can become depleted and your immune system response can be decreased with chronic and repeated stress. It has been estimated that 75-90% of all doctors visits are for a stress related ailment or complaints.

What can I do?
1. Get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Sleep is your body's way of "resetting the system" and helps to increase metabolism and immune response while giving your hormones a chance to balance and your brain bounce back from the day's events.

2. Eat a healthy diet. Proper nutrition such as fresh fruits and vegetables (especially in many different colors) have great benefits besides the vitamins, minerals, and even antioxidants because they help to support your immune system and help your body to bounce back from stressful situations faster.

3. Drink plenty of water. Water helps to hydrate your tissues to prevent injury and it also helps keep your blood pressure stable.

4. Practice safe stress. Take some time to yourself each day to relax and do some deep breathing. Pick an activity that makes you feel refreshed or free such as crafting, physical activity, cooking, or even a scenic drive. It will help your stress levels go down and prevent you from passing on your anxious energy to family and friends around you.

5. Reduce your stress as much as possible. Take a break when you feel overwhelmed and get some fresh air. Bargain with a relative about taking in that irritating relative if you're already preparing the holiday meal for the family gathering. Try to reduce the amount of money you're spending on presents by shopping early, catching great deals online, or even having a friend pick up presents for you at stores that have discounts on large purchase amounts.

If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation with me to discuss some great "Practicing Safe Stress" tips feel free to comment or shoot me an email! Have a happy holiday!