Why do not you fall by the stress? – No time!
Wow, I’m so stressed again… Do not stress me! “Stress” has more or less crept into the everyday life of each of us. But what effects does stress have on our body – especially in the longer term?
Especially with regard to stress, I am probably a prime example. I work full-time as a model, as a photographer, I’ve submitted my master’s thesis in full-time distance learning two weeks ago and I’m a blogger additionally. Especially the last weeks and months of my master thesis were stress in concentrated charge. Nevertheless, I wanted to accommodate everything and would have liked to split into five. I’m not one for doing things in halves. In such a packed time, it happens that I hardly sleep in order to have more working time and to manage everything. If this happens over a longer period, I always get sick. Always.
Although I never get sick otherwise. For me: the highest alert level. In combination with private stress and disappointments in my narrow circle of friends this is the straw to break the camel’s back. For me, this meant two consecutive kidney pancreases and pleurisy with 7 days of antibiotics and 11 days of 2400 mg of ibuprofen. Maximum daily dose. I never felt worse physically and for me it’s my personal proof that stress makes me sick. Luckily, I’ve submitted my master thesis and I am more relaxed again. Yes, I feel really freed and can finally devote myself to the beautiful things of life. And the work that I really enjoy with all my heart: my blog, the modeling and the photography. But do only I react to stress or what does the research say? And is there something like “positive stress”?
Stress – our body is on alert
Like all of our bodily functions, stress has its raison d’être and goes back to our beginnings when we were still dealing with saber-toothed tigers and were exposed to life-threatening situations. If we were exposed to such a situation, our body mobilized all its energies with the help of the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine to escape or fight – a struggle for survival, in which the stress hormones were metabolized.
Nowadays, we are stressed by other things that are not as acute as life-threatening like the fight with a saber-toothed tiger but can have serious consequences. We are more plagued by problems such as coping with our work, problems in our studies, worries about our children/nephews/nieces, existential fears, annoying conspecifics, or the demands we make on ourselves. When we feel stressed out, our body mobilizes exactly the same energy as well as stress hormones. Today, they are not metabolized in an escape or a fight and consequently accumulate in our bodies.
This becomes particularly problematic when this level of stress extends over a longer period and we have no periods of rest. For example, enough sleep or regular exercise that we enjoy would do us greatly in chronic stress situations. Habits that many see as a solution for coping with stress, such as smoking, alcohol, a wrong, high-sugar diet, processed-foods diet, drug abuse, or “abstaining from doing sports because you are already played out” exacerbate the situation.
Stress – aging in fast motion
If we do not give our body rest periods in which we get away from it all, it can have serious health consequences. The first warning signs are usually sleeping problems that are related to elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol as a stress hormone is supposed to keep us on alert so that we can survive the mortal-combat and not fall asleep. Additional warning signs of prolonged exposure may include increased blood pressure, restlessness, heartburn, increased malaise, difficulty in concentration, fatigue, anxiety, motivation problems, irritability, etc.
If our body is under constant stress, this can cause infarcts, ulcers, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, infectious diseases, tinnitus, overacidification, infertility, sexual aversion, osteoporosis, headache, back pain, and in extreme cases it can promote cancer and tumors. If psychological restrictions are added, these days one also speaks of the “burnout syndrome”. It usually includes above all a persistent and severe state of exhaustion, coupled with anxiety and physical limitations.
All these increased chances of illness are linked to the increased stress and cortisol levels. The latter results in having more free radicals in our body that damage our cells in the long term and accelerate aging. In addition, this chronic alert condition favors the production of acids in our body. Consequently, we acidify. This manifests itself mainly in gastrointestinal, digestive, and skin problems. As you know, stress hits the stomach. I have already described the consequences of a disturbed acid-base balance in this blog post.
What can we do?
The magic word here is “slowing down” as much as possible. That may sound odd at first glance, but it is. Many things that stress us are not worth it at all. But I also had to learn that first. Especially things that you can not change anyway, you should not take to heart and people who misbehave regularly, you can confidently give up on them and distance yourself from them. I enjoy observing my environment.
And maybe just because I have already had to go through hard times. I see my life with different eyes. Live much more aware and go with my gut. For example, I love my jobs. I practice them with passion and for me, they are not at all “work”. I am grateful that I have the freedom to practice my passions as a profession. Although sometimes I work more than 40 hours a week. Still, it is not a negative but “positive stress” for me.
And that is also one of the keys to effective stress management: to see things differently, not to be “stressed” and to enjoy small things as well. When was the last time you looked forward to getting up in the morning sunshine, sitting in your favorite café, or spending time with your loved ones? To have no existential fears and to be satisfied with you and your body? Do you have people around who love you because you are just the way you are? To be able to buy food for what you are hurting for right now?
Try to find healthy daily habits
When was the last time you cranked up the car radio when your favorite songs were played? Too often, we resent things that we can not change anyway: congestion, bad weather, or unfriendly people. Rather, we should learn to be more grateful, to pay more attention to ourselves. Spend more time on us and our personal health. Having some healthy Me-Time. To feed ourselves healthy, to listen to our favorite music, to reward ourselves, to fulfill our dreams, to be happier, more contented, and more relaxed. To be honest, which of our problems are serious problems and which are just luxury problems? There are certainly some people out there who would like to have your “problems”! 😉
Take a more relaxed view of things
Even a small portion of more realism would not hurt any of us: The world certainly will not go under, if we lose one or another follower on Instagram if we are not available 24/7 and do not answer every email immediately. We work to live and do not live to work. In this sense, a wonderful weekend – enjoy the sunbeams on your skin, the smell of freshly brewed coffee, the birds’ twittering, and the fact that you have true friends around you. Get rid of the stress and catch some happiness hormones! 🙂
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Here is the scientific evidence and studies this blog post is based on
Foster, J. A./Rinaman, L./Cryan, J. F. 2017: Stress & the gut-brain axis: Regulation by the microbiome, in: Neurobiology of Stress, Vol. 7, 2017, pp. 124-136.
Schneiderman, N./Ironson, G./Siegel, S. D. 2005: Stress and Health: Psychological, Behavioral, and Biological Determinants, in: Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, Vol. 1, 2005, pp. 607-628.
Ulrich-Lai, Y. M./Fulton, S./Wilson, M./Petrovich, G./Rinaman, L. 2015: Stress Exposure, Food Intake, and Emotional State, in: Stress, Vol. 18, 2015, No. 4, pp. 381-399.
Yau, Y. H./Potenza, M. N. 2013: Stress and eating behaviors, in: Minerva Endocrinologica, Vol. 38, 2013, No. 3, pp. 255-267.