Unfortunately, stress is a part of our daily lives. What we do with it, however, is up to us. We can let it control us, or we can take control of it.
Stress is tied into our natural “fight or flight” defense mechanisms. The hormones that are activated when we feel “stressed” are some of the same ones that are responsible for the incredible feats people accomplish during emergency situations. The problem is, our bodies were not meant to be exposed to these hormones on a continuous basis. Elevated levels of stress hormones over the long term leads to health problems.
Some “stress” can be good. For example, the physical stress of properly conditioning your body or the excitement of really good news. Adrenaline (one of the stress hormones) is involved in these situations however, it peaks and then wanes naturally.
We all experience short term or “tolerable stress.” This is associated with those situations in our life that are out or our control but temporary. They are temporary in the sense that with our own coping skills and the support of those around us, we can progressively move forward over the course of weeks to months. These stressful events would include a temporary disability due to an illness or surgery, a job change, or the death of a loved one or close friend. Although stress hormones levels will be elevated initially, they will be gradually returning to normal through the course of recovery and will not be elevated indefinitely.
The stress we all need to be on the watch for is chronic or “toxic stress.” When the trigger to stress is chronic, the activation of the stress response is prolonged and it remains heightened. In other words, the stress hormone levels are not gradually decreasing over time as they do with short term stress. The potential for adverse affects on our health exists. Situations which lead to toxic stress include chronic illness, physical and emotional abuse, financial difficulties, traumatic events and others.
Stress cannot be totally eliminated from life but there are many ways you can reduce and control it. These include exercise, meditation (which can also help you learn to let go of the things you cannot control), yoga, tai chi, proper rest, proper nutrition and hydration, massage therapy, acupuncture and counseling. Be patient, it will take some exploring to find the right combination for you but in the end you will be happy and healthier.