Did you know that April is Stress Awareness month? The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) is encouraging all of us to spend some time talking about stress and how it effects us, particularly as we adapt to the new normal of a post-Covid world. Perhaps this is a good a time to review what we know about stress and how best to keep our minds and bodies grounded.
What is stress exactly? It is simply our body’s way of responding to any kind of perceived demand or threat. When we sense danger, whether it’s real or in our imagination, our body’s self-defence system engages our “fight-or-flight response.” If we are accessing this process appropriately it can help us to stay focused, motivated and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save our life by giving us that extra burst of adrenal to boost our strength to defend ourselves. Or it can supercharge our reaction time so that we can slam on the brakes to avoid that accident on the road ahead. Stress can be helpful!
There is, however, a limit to how much stress our bodies can adequately manage. If we are constantly on point, alert for danger around every corner and focusing on what might go wrong, we may be overworking our systems. If we get stressed out regularly, our body may learn to exist in a heightened state of alert. It should be noted that this chronic state of stress has some serious side effects.
Chronic stress tends to disrupt nearly every system in our body. It suppresses our immune system and interferes with our ability to fight off infection. It can upset our digestive system and increase our susceptibility to many stomach and intestinal issues. Uninterrupted stress can lead to reproductive problems, as well as increase our risk of heart attack and stroke. In short, on-going stress speeds up the aging process and can rewire our brain. This could leave each of us more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and an host of other mental health problems.
In the midst of all of this overwhelming information, how can we begin to effectively understand our individual stress levels? The research suggests that we already know we are stressed. It is after a particularly long association with stress-based circumstances, where we seem to forget what it is like to be stress free. This is where our own internal dialogue can have a profound effect on whether we work towards a stress-less state or a stress-more state. At this point we need to recognize and decide that we don’t have to hang onto ‘this stress’ any longer.
As we begin to focus on shifting out of a stressful state into a place of balance and equilibrium, we start to take back control. We know that getting 6-8 hours of sleep each night helps our bodies to repair at the cellular level. It also helps us to regain objectivity about the situations we manage each day at home, at work and in the community.
With renewed objectivity we start to seek out companionship and interaction. This often takes place in nature or in community centres where we can move and exercise. Being in nature supports both our mental and our physical well-being. Movement supports our body’s system of strengthening and renewal.
A good workout also helps us to relax and find a moment of peace and mental tranquility. All together, sleep, interaction, exercise and relaxation go a long way to helping us regain and retain our emotional, physical and cognitive balance. As we work to adjust and recalibrate these pieces, we create a mind-body stress reset.
We can control our mind-body stress response. If you are experiencing sustained stress and have been struggling to regain your equilibrium. Or if you would like to chat about how to develop a new pattern of stress management, so that you can live a life of your choosing, please call or use the link below to book a 30 minute phone call with Simone Usselman-Tod.
Stress Management and Mindset Breakthrough Coach, Certified NeuroChange and NLP Master Practitioner and Coach. https://simoneusselmantod.com/book/