Stress and its effect on the body

Stress is essential for the body, this natural response is critical for survival in certain instances.  Those rapid reactions at critical times are driven by an elevation in adrenalin, heart rate and breathing and are vital in some situations.

The shoulders rise, the jaw clenches, muscles stiffen, limbs become ready for the ‘fight or flight’. The body prepares to defend itself or flee to safety; this response has been honed over thousands of years.

Tremendously important in certain episodes but if this heightened state continues, it can be draining for the body and mind.  When these reactions are prolonged or occur at unnecessary times they become problematic.  Prolonged stress has a negative impact on the body, reducing performance, concentration, and even increases pain levels within the body.

Stress has been shown to increase the symptoms of back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, TMJ issues amongst others.  It impairs healing time reducing the body’s ability to recover.

So what can we do to address stress in our lives?  Identifying causes and devising strategies to cope will help manage stress levels.

1.Sleep, optimise sleep, aiming for 7-9 hours

A regular sleep pattern will aid a restful night.  Recent studies have shown that reducing screen time before bed improves the quality of sleep.  So limit the use of phones in the late evening.

2. Exercise, especially if done in nature

Studies have shown that exercise in natural surroundings reduces blood cortisol levels, the markers of stress, and increases well being.  Use local parks and enjoy the scenery.

3. Meditation

Recently someone timidly said they used prayer to as a form of meditation, it’s probably the oldest form available.  For some people it’s the perfect start, a calm repetitive thought to provide peace for the mind. If prayer isn’t for you then simply visualising something that’s peaceful for you works well too, an image of beach, or candle can be a great starting point.

4. Enjoyable Creative activities, baking, music, dance, writing art, whatever you enjoy

Creative activities increase moments of ‘flow’, that feeling of being in the moment and not thinking of those hundred and one other tasks.  Athletes often use this to focus n the task rather than perhaps a mistake from earlier or an opponent or score, but to stay in the moment.  Arts and crafts can work brilliantly for this.  Revive that old hobby and enjoy the feeling of flow.