When it comes to managing the impact of stress on your health, it’s all about balance
We all know that feeling of having a lot on our plate. Whether it’s a hectic week at work, organising construction work at home or even just getting the kids from A to B on time, it is human nature that at one point or another our pulses begin to race and our mind runs at 100 miles per hour as we tackle the task at hand.
A burst of energy caused by a release of adrenaline is completely normal and actually helps us to function properly. However, too much or too little of this kind of stimulation can be bad for our health. Just as constant stress can have a long-term impact on our wellbeing, so too little motivation can cause our health to deteriorate.
Let’s take a closer look at that odd balance of productive stress.
What are the effects of stress?
It’s all too easy to label mental health issues as things that are “all in our head” and easily remedied. But this is far from the truth. The feeling of stress has a direct impact on the release of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline – powerful drugs that force the body into a higher state of agitation and alertness.
Too much stress
For a short period of time, stress hormones can help us to be more productive but too much of these hormones and we risk fatigue, insomnia and adrenal burnout. Over time, it is even thought that chronic stress can damage the brain, particularly in the hippocampus – the area of the brain responsible for memory.
Research has also shown that stress can cause problems within the central nervous system, digestive system and also on a cellular level, damaging the mitochondria that act as the energy factories of the body. The result of these problems can be chronic fatigue, a lowered immune system, an inability to detoxify or metabolise food properly, increased blood pressure, muscular pain and even impotence.
While too much stress can be harmful to your health, it’s also possible to suffer from not having enough motivation in your life. Living without any stress – or shall we call it drive – can leave you feeling listless and lethargic. Adrenaline and cortisol are important hormones that can be beneficial in short bursts. Without direction and a sense of energy you may not feel stress, but the hormone imbalance can quickly lead to depression.
This depression through inactivity will not only leave you in a poor mental state (one that is difficult to escape from) but will also have a knock on effect on your physical health. Low energy results in a lack of exercise and movement. Sitting for long periods of time has been closely related to conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Ironically, the lack of exercise means that the body does not release endorphins – the feel good drug which can improve mood and energy. It is for this reason that depression is often referred to as a vicious cycle.
What factors affect your stress?
The first step to dealing with stress is to identify the causes, whether they be external factors like work, children, relationships, family, your financial situation, or internal factors such as mental health conditions like anxiety.
Stress can be caused by many different aspects of your life, like your experience dealing with past stressful situations or the support network you have around you. Your physical environment can also play a part, as studies show that those who spend more time in clinical indoor spaces are more likely to find relaxation difficult.
What is the perfect stress level?
Your perfect stress level is the level of responsibility, desire and fear which motivates you without creating anxiety and worry. The right kind of stress is the kind that makes you feel inspired to work harder. It leaves you energised, focused, engaged and alert. The right stress can benefit your health by pushing your comfort zones, encouraging you to think and move more, and helping you learn new things. This kind of stress is the ideal balance between rest, recovery, and activity — so how do you find it?
Manage energy and rest to find your perfect stress level
Everybody deals with stress differently. For some, the smallest amount of stress can feel like too much whereas others are able to deal with high levels without feeling overwhelmed. There are a few tips we can all follow however to help us reach the perfect stress level.
For energy and motivation, it’s all about getting inspired for the future. Set goals that suit you and keep track of your progress. To-do lists are a useful tool for motivating yourself to complete at least one task a day. You should also never be afraid to seek motivation in other places, whether it’s from a loved one, a professional coach or a healthcare expert.
For those times when your stress levels feel too high, meditation can help your body relax, as well as massage and getting outdoors. However, there is no replacement for nutrition and exercise. How often you move your body and the stuff you choose to put into it play a huge part in your physical and mental responses to situations.
Think of your body like a car — in order to run at its best, it needs the right fuel and should be serviced regularly to keep everything in good working order. Focusing on your exercise regime and nutrition to maintain a healthy weight and balanced lifestyle is a great way to help keep dark thoughts at bay.
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