What You Need to Know About Stress

February 4, 2023

From overflowing schedules to overflowing emotions, stress can be a bear of a burden, but with the right tools and a little help from your friends and family, it’s manageable.

Stress affects everyone in different ways, and its causes are many and varied - from illness to finances, to past trauma, to a demanding schedule. It could even be that you just got all your timetables to align, and the car doesn’t start. 

Some stress is modifiable, and some not so much, like your child that keeps having the same nightmare and wakes up screaming at 2 am each night. 

The body’s response to stress 

The body’s response to stress is complex and different for each person. The stress response is mediated by neuroendocrine, cellular, and molecular infrastructure, a complex way of saying your body releases hormones when you’re stressed. 

These hormones act on tissues and organs in the nervous system. In times of dysregulation (when they are high or low), you’ll see effects on various physiologic functions, including growth, metabolism, reproduction, and immune competence, as well as on behavior and personality development. (So, pretty much everything). 

Notably, in pregnancy, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, critical periods in the development of the stress response system are adapted by the vulnerability and impressionability of a naïve system. Essentially, you’re more susceptible to have malformation of your developing stress response system depending on the stress you place on it.

All wordiness aside, what does stress do to us? It can impair our immune system, so we get sick more often. It has been linked to mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. It has been linked to autoimmune diseases. It messes with our circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle), appetite and satiety (feeling of fullness), body temperature, anxiety, blood pressure, heart rate, metabolism, water retention, thyroid dysregulation, inflammation, and the list goes on.

Tips for managing stress

The good news: there are ways to reduce, manage and cope with your stress!

  1. Find ways to reduce your stress level – sometimes this is delegating a task to your partner, having your in-laws pick up the kids from school, or completing a task that you have been working on for ages or dreading.
  2. Start a stress journal – note what caused your stress, how you felt, what your action in response was, and, importantly, what you did to make yourself feel better.
  3. Learn to say no – it’s so hard, especially when you’re a yes person. Check out the book When the body says no, by Gabor Mate – a great read on stress.
  4. Write lists for yourself and pare it down. Manage your time by not over-committing.
  5. Control your environment – remove yourself from stressful situations as you can and remove stress from your environment. If the news makes you anxious, turn it off!
  6. Watch your diet – ugh, age-old, and what does that even mean? It means getting enough fruits, vegetables, proteins, and whole grains in your diet to nourish your body in all the ways it needs.
  7. Sleep – sleeping and sleep hygiene are so important. Of course, there are things out of your control (new parents – you get it!) but getting a reasonable amount of sleep each night helps our circadian rhythm to regulate our sleep-wake cycle.
  8. Exercise – go for a walk, walk the dog, take a class with a friend, take the stairs.
  9. Make time for fun and relaxation – schedule it if your schedule is tight. You’ll thank yourself later in a hot bubble bath with a good book.

There are also many stress management tools or apps to help you manage the stress in your life. Do what works for you at the right time, and know there is support.

We’re all in this together. Contact us if you’d like to learn more or talk to one of our team members about managing stress.

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References

  1. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-management.htm
  2. Tsigos C, Kyrou I, Kassi E, et al. Stress: Endocrine Physiology and Pathophysiology. [Updated 2020 Oct 17]. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK278995/

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