How Stress Expresses Itself in the Body, Mind, and Spirit

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Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you struggled for a good night’s sleep because you had an important event the next day? I am guessing you will probably answer yes to that question.

No matter how many positive affirmations or breathing exercises we do, stress has become an inevitable part of life.

In this series, we’ll explore the triggers of stress, and their impact on our minds, bodies, and spirits, and we’ll take a look at ways to manage stress.

First things first. Stress is a certainty in today’s fast-paced life. Those who achieve zero stress are somewhere in the Himalayas, away from this cyclical world. Everyone faces stress in their lives. Even babies. Imagine your arm is itching, you are crying to gain attention and your mom tries to feed you! Stress, my friend, goes back to the day you were born.

Stress is a good motivator

When you stay up late for an important presentation, you are driven by stress, which also means you care about giving your best. It motivates you to act. However, when you feel attached to the outcome of the presentation, rather than focusing on the input, is when things spiral out of hand.

When you experience small amounts of stress and handle it, your body builds resilience to future stressors. You become mentally strong. According to the American Psychological Association, over time humans are wired to adapt to stressful situations by building resilience, which can be developed by:

  • Making connections with others
  • Taking care of yourself
  • Taking decisive actions

When does stress start impacting you negatively?

Let’s take a look at what happens to the body when we face stress. The autonomous nervous system controls your organs and their functionality. Your heart rate, breathing, vision changes, and more is under its control. It’s a built-in stress response, “the flight or fight response” which helps the body face stressful situations.

The sudden burst of energy, oxygen, and alertness is a lifesaver when you’re trying to avoid being eaten by a tiger. However, tiger attacks are less than a daily occurrence these days. Stress, though, is definitely a regular occurrence – your demanding boss, your lousy commute, your own perfectionism, family problems, that weird noise your car is making. It’s all small potatoes compared to rampaging wildlife, but when even minor stress continues day after day, it can have wide-ranging effects on many aspects of life.

The American Medical Association reports that stress is at the root of more than 60 percent of physical ills.

We did discuss that stress is a good motivator, however, anything an excessive amount is poison. So, when does stress become a problem? When there is no emotional outlet, i.e., when it significantly impacts your emotional well-being, your self-care, or your ability to function at home, at work, and in your personal and professional relationships.

When you have long-term stress, continued activation of the “fight or flight” response causes wear and tear on the body. Physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms develop including but not limited to insomnia, high blood pressure, digestive problems, weak immune system, depression, and panic attacks.

Often, people with chronic stress resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as smoking, drug abuse, gambling, intoxication, and overeating, to name a few.

Chronic, or bad, stress can impact every aspect of our lives

Just like our minds, our bodies experience stress showing themselves with sweaty palms, a racing heart, and anxious thoughts, and so do our souls. Anxiety can rob us of the ability to enjoy life, creating hopelessness and shame. We find it hard to stop obsessing long enough to enjoy a loving relationship, find humor in life, or bask in peaceful moments. We can’t create, relax, or imagine a life without fear.

Stress can be difficult to handle, but if you start seeking help and building connections, it will not only lessen, but you will also start finding bliss and happiness in your life making you a grateful and cheerful person.

Stay tuned for the next blog post in this series which focuses on stress management tools to help you create changes in your life.

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