Why all stress (and stress relief) is not created equal.
Did you know that some stress is actually good for you? In the right amounts, stress can improve brain function, make you more creative, help you get fit, lower your risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and lots more.
So-called “good stress,” or what psychologists refer to as “eustress,” is the type of stress we feel when we feel excited. Our pulse quickens, our hormones change, but there is no threat or fear. We feel this type of stress when we ride a roller coaster, gun for a promotion, or go on a first date. There are many triggers for this good stress, and it keeps us feeling alive and excited about life.
The type of stress we really have to worry about is chronic stress. Chronic stress results from a state of ongoing physiological arousal. This occurs when the body experiences stressors with such frequency or intensity that the autonomic nervous system does not have an adequate chance to activate the relaxation response on a regular basis. This type of stress comes when we repeatedly face stressors that take a heavy toll and feel inescapable. Chronic Stress is the “stress overload” you feel day in, day out that’s silently but systematically sabotaging your health and well-being, and which affects virtually every system in the body, either directly or indirectly. We were built to handle acute stress, which is short-lived, but not chronic stress, which is steady over a long term.
This type of chronic stress response occurs all too frequently from our modern lifestyle, when everything from high-pressured jobs to loneliness to constant daily pressures can keep the body in a state of perceived threat and chronic stress. In this case, our fight-or-flight response, which was designed to help us fight a few life-threatening situations spaced out over a long period (like being attacked by a bear every so often), can wear down our bodies and cause us to become ill, either physically or emotionally. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 90% of doctor visits are for conditions in which stress at least plays a role! That’s why it’s so important to learn stress management techniques and make healthy lifestyle changes to safeguard yourself from the negative impact of chronic stress.
Knowing about the different types of stress, it makes sense to get more good stress into your life. Because you actually can get too much of even the good type of stress, it’s important to choose activities in your life that make you feel good, happy, and excited about life. It’s also a good idea to cut out as many activities as you can that drain you or lead to the experience of chronic stress. One good way to gauge whether or not an activity is worth your time is to pay attention to how the thought of it makes you feel. Do you feel excited at the thought? Is it a “want to” activity, or a “have to” activity? Be sure your “want to” activities are all things you really do want to do, and your “have to” activities are all absolutely necessary.
Here’s the thing, though. You try to do the right things. You try to get in your sleep, you’ve gone to yoga, you’ve reworked your schedule and even tried to meditate. But still, you feel its effects. Even worse, stress-related disease shows up everywhere you look.
So what gives?
The Answer: Like stress, not all stress relief is created equal.
Stress isn’t just in your head. Stress is also physical.
Here’s how stress damages your health in 13 steps:
- You think about something stressful—work, money, relationships, family, health issues or whatever’s bothering you.
- Your amygdala (in your mid-brain) senses danger.
- Your amygdala helps to initiate your body’s fight-or-flight response to stress.
- In “fight or flight”, your body releases adrenaline and the “stress hormone”, cortisol, diverts blood away from your digestive tract, leaving you less able to digest food and absorb nutrients AND more likely to gain weight.
- In this physiological “crisis mode,” you’re more vulnerable to pain—from chronic illness, arthritis, fibromyalgia, CRPS, migraines, stomach upset, and more.
- In this state of heightened physiological “alert”, your brain’s creative center is deemed “non-essential” and shuts down. Down goes your problem solving, your creative skills, and your intuition.
- You feel increasingly irritable, isolated and impatient.
- Stress affects your sleep. Your metabolism slows.
- Your body secretes even more cortisol, wreaking more havoc on your digestion, increasing your blood pressure, lowering your immune response.
- After releasing too much cortisol for too long, your body goes into “adrenal fatigue”. You feel depleted, exhausted, and depressed.
- Migraines, insomnia, stress-related hair loss, chronic pain, and any number of other issues become regular parts of your life.
- Battling low energy, you can hardly focus at work and elsewhere.
- Your depression can deepen. You (and your body) are STRESSED OUT.
Stress Relieving Techniques
What about aerobic exercise, yoga, meditation, hypnosis or other forms of relaxation?
40% of the population exercises for 30 minutes each on 1 – 4 days per week
Exercise is crucial for a healthy lifestyle. Physical activity promotes the release of endorphins, known as the “feel good” neurotransmitters; makes you “smarter” and more creative by increasing blood flow (and oxygen) to your brain; and acts as “meditation in motion”, providing mental and physical stress relief.
The reality: However critical, it’s hours, even days, after that stressful meeting with the boss, or that fight with your spouse, before you can seek out the solace of your running shoes. (If you have that healthy habit…)
Or for those already dealing with chronic pain, it is nearly impossible to actively participate in exercise on a consistent basis. Therefore, this is just not an effective tool for those dealing with chronic pain or a debilitating illness. **
38% of Americans use “complementary and alternative medicine”, which includes yoga, meditation, hypnosis and other natural stress relief
These practices provide powerful stress relief, increased focus, creativity, and so much more.
The reality: Yoga, meditation, hypnosis and self-hypnosis provide significant stress relief and other benefits that yield real results in weeks or months with regular, frequent practice. Many people who try meditation, hypnosis or self-hypnosis give up too soon because they feel it’s “not working”, where if they were given the proper techniques, the proper information and the proper support, people would have tremendous success!
Decrease your stress, decrease your cortisol levels and increase your good stress and overall health!
If you find yourself experiencing chronic stress and would like more resources on stress management, you can contact Advanced Pathways Hypnosis for additional information on techniques that can help you.