How badly is stress impacting your health?
If I were to ask you when you last felt stressed, what would your answer be? Maybe it was due to a work deadline, a traffic jam, or an argument in your household. Maybe you feel overwhelmed by all of life’s demands and stress has left you feeling hopeless and frozen with fear. Or maybe…. You have become so good at saying “I’m fine” that you really have started to believe it.
The future of our nation. Inflation. The economy. Medical decisions. Working overtime. Raising Kids. The list of daily stressors goes on and on. So much so, that we have now entered an epidemic of stress. This stress-related epidemic seems to be impacting Americans more than any other country in the world. Medical research estimates that almost 90% of illness and disease in America are stress-related (NASD).
An October 2022 report by The American Psychological Association concluded that the US Population has experienced tremendous stress over the past few years, much greater than pre-2020 levels. The report found that 76% of adults had experienced negative health impacts from stress, while 34% of adults stated that the stress they felt was overwhelming most days and negatively impacted their daily lives.
So what is it about stress that is impacting us so badly? Is all stress bad for us?
The answer is no. Not all stress is bad.
Some stress is good for us. Good stress is the type of stress you feel when you are excited. Your hormones surge, your heartbeat speeds up, but there is no threat or fear. This type of stress response is often experienced when riding a rollercoaster, going on a date, or competing in a sporting event. This type of stress inspires us, motivates us, and focuses energy in the body to enhance performance.
On the other hand, the type of stress that is bad for us leaves us feeling exhausted and jittery afterwards. This type of stress raises our heart rate, our blood pressure, and creates the “fight, flight or freeze” response. In small amounts, this type of stress does not cause much harm to our bodies. We can keep this stress from overcoming us and negatively impacting our lives with the proper resources and techniques.
The problems arise when bad stress becomes CHRONIC stress. When we start to experience the stress response multiple times throughout the day. When we find ourselves triggered by simple requests or minor conflicts in relationships. This is the stress that opens the floodgates of our hormones to a point our body can no longer manage.
Chronic stress creates a myriad of problems in the body:
And so much more.
So what can we do about our stress?
The good news is, there are A LOT of strategies and techniques that you can do to start reducing your stress levels and lowering your body’s daily stress load.
1. Start by Identifying Your Stress
Now that you know some of the symptoms of stress, reflect on how often you feel that stress throughout the day? What causes you the most stress? What causes you smaller levels of stress? Get clear about what is stressing you out the most throughout each week.
2. Begin to Identify Opportunities to Lower Stress
What changes need to be made in order to start lowering your stress each week? Think small at first. Small changes can make a huge difference overall.
3. Make Time for Self-Care
Self-care is no longer a luxury, but a necessity in our busy, modern world. Taking time to slow your body and mind down gives your body time to repair, rejuvenate, and come back to a balanced state. This helps correct some of the damage that stress causes. The more stressed your life causes, the more self-care you will need to reverse the impact.
The more you know, and the more you take time to prioritize lowering your stress levels now…. the better you will be able to avoid compounding the mental and physical health problems that are created from years of chronic stress. You got this!