No one on this planet can completely avoid stress. In our modern world, it comes in the form of kids, jobs, finances, relationships, and even terrorism. In the post-9/11 world, many people are living with a subtle, subconscious level of stress that is constantly burdening them. Sadly, many of these people don’t even recognize they are stressed. For those that do, they try their best to ignore it, hoping it goes away. Unfortunately it doesn’t. It may fade away, but it’s causing havoc on our insides.
Chronic stress leads to a multitude of physical and psychological ailments. It depletes the immune system and leaves us vulnerable to viruses, such as the common cold, flu, or chickenpox. In addition, stress aids the production of hormones that cause inflammation, which lead to heart disease, joint pain, and diabetes. Stress, unsurprisingly, puts stress on the brain, which leads to depression and early aging of our minds.
Stress had a very primordial origination in humans. Stress played a huge part in the fight or flight response. Early humans had to either run from the bear or kill it. Stress would increase oxygen in the blood and supply as much glucose to muscles as possible so a person could run and be as strong as possible in the face of a life-threatening situation. A signal goes off, various hormones are released into the blood stream, and chain reactions occur, which better prepare a person to get away from the bear (not to say you always will, however!).
The brain also releases a hormone called Cortisol from the pituitary gland when stress is present. Cortisol keeps blood sugar and blood pressure high, allowing our bodies to be as efficient as physiologically possible. Unfortunately, in a more modern world, we cannot run away from our problems. We are however, left with hormones floating around our body which are increasing our blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar levels. A terrible trifecta that weakens our immune system, gives us high blood pressure, causes obesity, and damages our brain.
In addition, various studies have shown the effects of stress on our blood. Stress increases certain chemicals which make blood stick and more likely to clot. When blood pressure rises, blood become stickier, and blood vessels narrow, we are at a heightened risk for heart attack. This is why those especially at risk of heart attack are urged to keep calm and live as stress free as possible. All this is the result of mental stress.
What is the cure to stress you might wonder. There is no one cure. A variety of methods have been shown to be effective. Pyschotherapy, medications, and even experimental devices have been used to battle stress in certain individuals. While these options may work for some, it is always best to take a simpler approach in battling stress before doing anything more drastic. When you feel stressed out remind yourself of a few things:
- This too shall pass. Pain, worry, joy, loneliness, excitement, or any other feeling is impermanent. All things will eventually pass. Do not let yourself get so hung up on a feeling, positive or negative, as it will only lead to undue suffering.
- Ask yourself: Will this really matter 5 years from now? More often than not, the answer is no.
- Remind yourself of the power of positive thinking. It’s no coincidence that good things often happen to people who believe in themselves and stay optimistic. Always try to see the bright side.
In addition to being mindful of these thoughts, various activities like yoga have been proven to be successful in fighting stress. Yoga, by nature, is a peaceful, soothing activity. It delivers physical benefits, but can also significantly impact your mental health in a very positive way. A calm, peaceful, happy life is better than a hectic, stressed, and worried existence. Find your inner peace however you can, and live happier.