Stressed out?

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Our bodies are hard-wired to react to stress in ways meant to protect us against threats, but this stress-response can turn against you. (1) The combination of reactions to stress is known as the “fight-or-flight” response because it evolved as a survival mechanism, enabling us to react to life-threatening situations. (2) Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, and helps you to fight off the threat or flee to safety. (1,2) Unfortunately, the body can also react to perceived threats that are not life-threatening, such as traffic jams, work pressure and family difficulties. (2) When these stressors are always present and you constantly feel you are under threat, that “fight-or-flight” response stays turned on, and this takes its toll on the body. (1,2) Amongst other things, on-going stress can raise your blood pressure, make you vulnerable to depression, anxiety and substance abuse, as well as lead to weight gain and digestive problems. (1,2)

There are positive, healthy ways to manage stress as it occurs, helping to reduce many of the negative health consequences. (3) Everyone is different, and so are the ways they choose to manage their stress. (3)

Here are five healthy techniques research has shown can reduce stress is both the short- and long-term:

  1. Take a break –It may seem like a difficult task to take a break from the big work project that is causing you stress, but when you give yourself permission to take a break from the thing / person causing you stress, and allow yourself do something else, you will give yourself time to gain a new perspective on the situation or problem, and you will feel less overwhelmed. Just 20 minutes can make all the difference! (3)
  2. Exercise –Exercise benefits both the body and the mind. (3) Just taking a 20-minute brisk walk when you are feeling stressed not only deepens your breathing, but it also helps to relieve muscle tension. (2) Movement therapies such as yoga and tai chi combine fluid movements with deep breathing and mental focus, all of which can induce calm. (2)
  3. Smile and laugh – Our brains are interconnected with our emotions and facial expressions. Laughing and smiling can help to relieve stress and tension. (3)
  4. Take a Vitamin B[LINK TO VITAMIN B COMPLEX PAGE] supplement to provide you with B vitamins that are essential for optimum nervous system health. (4)
  5. Get social support– Friends, family, acquaintances or co-workers all provide a life-enhancing social safety net. (2) Many people who enjoy close relationships with family and friends (provided they are not the stressor!) receive emotional support that helps to sustain them during times of chronic stress and crisis. (2,3)

Read also our article:

  • Dealing with exam stress [LINK TO DEALING WITH EXAM STRESS ARTICLE]

References: 1. Mayo Clinic. Chronic stress puts your health at risk. [online] 2016 [cited 2017 October 19]. Available from: URL: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037. 2. Harvard Health. Understanding the stress response. [online] 2016 [cited 2017 October 19]. Available from: URL: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response. 3. American Psychological Association. Five tips to managing stress. [online] [cited 2017 October 19]. Available from: URL: http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/manage-stress.aspx. 4. Mayo Clinic Women’s Healthsource. Special Report, July 2009. Vitamins and Minerals. What You Should Know About Essential Nutrients. [online] [cited 2015 October 18]. Available from: URL: http://www.mayoclinic.org/documents/mc5129-0709-sp-rpt-pdf/doc-20079085.

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