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Stressors – From Big to Small

We are constantly bombarded by life “stressors.”  From personal inconveniences, like traffic jams, to the more significant challenges of illness or injury, to the all too frequent and unwelcome news of tragic world events like school shootings.  While stressors differ for each of us us, we all typically respond to these stressors with the same basic physiological reactions. When we feel stressed:

  • Our bodies release stress hormones such as epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol (hydrocortisone) so we can physically react with speed and strength. (This is the “fight or flight” response.)
  • At the same time, our blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar levels increase.

While small amounts of stress can be seen as beneficial (stress can be a powerful motivator) research has shown that long-term, high-level stress can be harmful—the harms include an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, and depression.  Chronic stress can eventually weaken our immune system.

Too often, our stress response is in high-gear for too long as we stress about the weather, the future, the past, the housework.  We stress-out about things large and small. Right?meditate_woman2

So how do we get a grip and really start to manage our stress?  First, we can notice when we are feeling stressed and take action to alleviate the response.  Take time for relaxation; take time for activities that bring joy and laughter; take time every day to appreciate what is going right in your life.

If you can, do something about the things that are causing stress.  For many of us this means doing better daily and weekly planning, and saying “No” more often to miscellaneous demands on our time.  It may also mean confronting the person who is “pushing our buttons.”  One way to do this is by writing a letter to that person stating how you feel and how you would like to see things change.  You don’t have to send the letter, but then you will be clear about exactly what troubles you.

Sometimes we have to look a little deeper by asking, “Am I living and working in ways that support my values?”

Sometimes we feel stressed and unsettled because we are holding on to something from our past.  Forgiveness is a great stress management tool.  To forgive doesn’t mean that you condone or excuse someone or some behavior, it means that you intentionally let go of anger and resentment.

Whether you choose to make an effort to relax more or take action to tame your stressors, choose to do something today!  You will be doing your body a favor and you will be surprised at how good this will make you feel.

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