Stress | Is stress making you tense up, physically?


Image: Xiang Chen


Are you stressed? It would be quite an achievement if you aren’t. When you open the newspapers nowadays it’s all doom and gloom. We are always bombarded by stress factors, whether they be the latest statistics about the ripple effects of the credit crunch; alerts about terrorist attacks; or the news that the cereal you have taken ages to discover has just been discontinued (I never imagined the economic crisis would affect my diet this specifically).


Close the door and keep the cold out.


As intelligent beings, it is unavoidable that we will always have much too much to do and consider. The important thing to realize is that, like all things in life, there are ebbs and lows. You need to understand that stress will be a constant knock at your door but the question is, will you let them in or close the door in its face?


Very few people are unstressed. Some people do claim to thrive on stress (or chaos, you decide), saying that it drives them to bigger and better things. I accept that there are times when stress propels you to make decisions and perform actions that you might not do otherwise (akin to the fight or flight response). However, our bodies simply cannot handle all this stress all the time.


The effects of stress on our bodies isn’t detrimental to just our emotional and mental health. Consider the “fight or flight” response I mentioned earlier. This is the most basic factor of our sympathetic nervous system and is built into every one of our bodies to keep us from danger. Back in the day when our hunter ancestors encountered a big hairy mammoth, they summed up the situation and (hopefully) made the decision that they weren’t going to beat a mammoth and proceeded to run away. Nowadays, we tend to not encounter scary prehistoric animals anymore, but our internal alarm systems still detect danger nonetheless. When it does your heart rate goes up and you start to sweat as the adrenalin rushes through your body, preparing you for either the fight or the escape.


Setting off the alarm day and night.


The problem with our quite awe inspiring system is that it’s now turned on constantly and if affects our health. Think of the butterflies in your stomach right before an important presentation. Now imagine having these butterflies all the time. It plays havoc with your appetite, gives you cramps and hampers your digestion. Then those butterflies move up and hover over your neck and shoulders, causing tension and aches. Their little wings flap against your cheeks and skull, causing headaches and migraines. It takes a while for you to notice that you’ve been clenching your jaw; your cheeks are feeling very tender and little lines are starting to appear and deepen on your face. The constant flapping of the wings in your skull is keeping you awake and you just wish you could have a nice quiet night.


Bringing out the butterfly catcher.


Stressors are around every corner. It could be work related or due to personal relationships. Feeling slightly nervous right before a meeting is fine, but when it becomes quite significant in your life that’s the time to stop and take back control.


A preventative approach is important when it comes to our health and wellbeing. No one today leaves the house with the front door wide open and be surprised if they were burgled.


In the same way, if we took precautions and care in our day to day lives the effects of stress (which cannot be guaranteed to never show its ugly head) will definitely be less like a monsoon and more like a light drizzle.


So what can we do to help eliminate the impact of stress on our lives? Find out in my next post where I will discuss some ways that don’t involve leading a hermetic life in the mountains.


Other posts you may be interested in:

Six ways to de-stress your life

Health and wellbeing | Six things we can learn from a construction site



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