It seems like the older we get the more stress and anxiety we have to deal with. Work, family, health, politics, and many other areas in our lives can all cause stress in our bodies and minds. This post is to help our readers identify what stress is, where it’s coming from, and what we can do about it.
What Is Stress?
Unfortunately, this is a much more complicated question than it seems. Stress is a very complex issue that can manifest itself in myriad ways. Stress can be a physical issue that we feel in our muscles, and it can also be a factor that causes mental tension. Put simply, when we experience a stressful situation, it sets off a series of stress hormones that result in physiological changes.
Stress is a complicated evolution of the fight-or-flight response that we evolved millions of years ago. When the world was simpler, our brains were designed to recognize life-threatening situations and then quickly react by either standing our ground and fighting, or running away. Little by little, our world changed as we learned how to farm and herd animals and organize ourselves into communities. Eventually we got to where we are now where we live relatively comfortable lives with very little danger compared to our evolutionary ancestors.
This is where stress as we know it comes into the equation. In modern life, we don’t have predators hunting us or other tribes constantly fighting for land and trying to kill us. However, that same response can still be triggered by non-life-threatening things like traffic jams, getting yelled at by your boss, or a fight with your partner. Because this response was originally evolved as a way to kick our bodies into motion to deal with those life threatening situations, it can cause all sorts of problems in our bodies and minds when we don’t use that energy to run or fight. This can be expounded when the same stressors occur over and over again in our lives, and when left untreated for a long enough time, stress can in fact lead to some pretty severe health complications.
Causes of Stress
There are many things that can cause stress and there is a lot of research that shows that stress is becoming more and more common in the average American home. The American Institute of Stress states that 77% of Americans experience physical symptoms caused by stress. The top five causes of stress in 2017 are as follows:
- 63% Future of our nation
- 62% Money
- 61% Work
- 57% Political climate
- 51% Violence/crime
This list shows that the things that cause the most stress to Americans and people in general are things that threaten our safety and the safety of our families. However, these are only the most universal causes of stress. Each of us will likely have our own things that cause us stress, so it is important for each of us to learn how to identify what our biggest stressors are. Check out this site for some excellent information about stress in America.
How to Identify Stress
Stress can affect us all very differently. For example; Tom is an extrovert. He is gregarious and loud and loves being the center of attention. Susan considers herself an introvert. She does best in one-on-one situations and is uncomfortable with strangers or with large groups of people. They are both lawyers and often have to make legal arguments in front of a room full of people.
Tom loves this aspect of his job. Susan does not. She is great at her job and does an excellent job making her arguments, but afterwards her face is flushed, her heart is pumping fast, and her hands are shaking. Now if this was just a one time thing it would not be that big of a deal. But Susan has been making these arguments on a weekly basis for decades. This is where things get dangerous.
Having low level stressors over a long period of time is like letting your car engine idle to high. It has very little effect if done for a few seconds, but if done for a long enough time it can actually cause the entire engine to break apart and catch fire!
This is why it is important for each of us to take the time to identify what is causing us stress in our lives. Here are some things to look out for that happen during the stress response whether you are being hunted by a lion or are stuck in a traffic jam:
- Sudden burst of energy
- Increased heart rate
- Increased blood pressure
- Nostrils, throat, and lungs open up
- Breathing becomes deeper
- Sweat glands open up
- Hairs stand up (goosebumps)
- Dry mouth
Stress Treatment: We Can Help!
Now that we have gone over how to identify what is causing you stress and the physiological indicators of when your body is having a stress response, we can explore ways to deal with that stress.
Because the fight-or-flight response gives a sudden burst of energy, one of the best ways to mitigate the damage done by this response being triggered by non-life-threatening events is simply engaging your muscles in some sort of physical activity. There are many physical activities that are proven to relieve stress — especially when done on a regular basis. Activities like biking, swimming, jogging or going for a brisk walk are all great options, but really any activity that gets your heart pumping and allows your muscles to flex and release will help release some of the stress stored in your muscles.
Humans are very social creatures. There are several studies that show that people who have strong social networks see and increase in longevity and a decrease in stress levels. If you are feeling stressed, reaching out to a family member or confidant can be very helpful in relieving mental and emotional stress.
Similar to how humans have a fight-or-flight response to stressful situations, we have also developed a relaxation response that can be set in motion with the right triggers. One way to trigger this response is by doing different deep breathing exercises. Pair this with yoga or tai chi and you have a very effective stress relief.
Massage is also an excellent way to relieve stress. Depending on what sort of stress you are dealing with, Colorado Massage has many different services that are aimed specifically at releasing the tension stored in your body from stress.
If you are experiencing tension deep in your muscle tissue, then Ashiatsu massage is one of the best ways that you can really loosen up and work that tension out of your body. You can also try aromatherapy massage which uses essential oils to help your body release as much tension as possible.
There are many ways to combat stress and usually the best answer is some combination of all of the above. The more you can do to combat the constant stressors you face in you live the better off you will be and Colorado Massage is here to help. Contact us today to see how we can help Pueblo residents get rid of stress.