We have all experienced some level of stress in our lives. In fact, “63% of Canadians say they feel the same (21%) or more (42%) stressed as compared to five years ago.” Stress is the body’s natural reaction to certain circumstances and helps to protect the body from further damage. However, this can become problematic when stress levels do not lower after the initial spike.
“Stress is the response of your body and mind to demands being placed on you. When you feel threatened, your brain releases chemicals called hormones that send alarm signals throughout your body. These hormones prepare your body to take action.” – Canadian Mental Health Association
When the body senses a threat, it releases hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Mayo Clinic states, “adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.”
This reaction protects your body in threatening situations, and once the supposed danger has been resolved, hormone levels return to normal. When stress is ever-present, though, and your body continuously thinks it is under attack, the release of these hormones stays constant and can have a negative effect on your overall health. “A main concern about stress is its effect on the immune system, which can ultimately lead to further complicating an illness.”
At Origin Active Lifestyle Communities, with retirement communities throughout Canada, we want to bring awareness to the effects stress has on an individual’s overall health and wellness. We have gathered a list of four health concerns that can be brought on by or worsened by stress, as well as tips for practicing stress management.
The Impact Stress Has on Health and Wellness
The Common Cold
Stress inhibits the immune system, so individuals with chronic stress are more likely to get sick. Sheldon Cohen, a psychology professor at Carnegie Mellon University, states, “when under continuous stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond properly and consequently produce levels of inflammation that lead to disease.”
When an injury or wound occurs, stress can actually slow down the healing process. As previously mentioned, stress initiates the release of cortisol in the body, and chronic stress means that cortisol is constantly being produced. Excess levels of cortisol in the body inhibit the healing process. In order to promote fast, safe healing, it is essential to lower your stress levels and find ways to practice stress management.
During a fight-or-flight situation, the hormones your body releases alter the way your body functions. According to MedicineNet, “cortisol stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism for fast energy, in addition to stimulating insulin release and maintenance of blood sugar levels. The end result of these actions is an increase in appetite. Therefore, chronic stress, or poorly managed stress, may lead to elevated cortisol levels that stimulate your appetite, with the end result being weight gain or difficulty losing unwanted pounds.”
Decline of Cognitive Function
While periodic elevated stress levels are almost inevitable, chronic stress can increase the likelihood of developing memory loss.
Regardless of what is inducing feelings of stress, practicing stress management can help manage symptoms and lower your risk of developing a chronic health condition, such as high blood pressure. The Mental Health Foundation has compiled a list of seven ways to help you reduce stress in your life and protect yourself from the adverse effects of chronic stress.
1. Eat Healthy
There is growing evidence that shows how food can affect our overall mood. While experiencing feelings of stress, healthy eating can combat the potential of unnecessary or unhealthy weight gain.
2. Beware of Smoking and Drinking Alcohol
While these habits may ease the initial feeling of being stressed, over time and in abundance, they can enhance and worsen health issues.
Exercise has been found to be a great way to manage stress levels. According to the Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada, “physical activity can clear your mind, reduce tension and increase energy.”
4. Take Time Out
Practicing self-care and taking time for yourself is a vital component of maintaining health and wellness that is often overlooked. Whether it’s reading, painting, fishing, or yoga, find an activity that you enjoy and relax.
5. Be Mindful
“Mindfulness is a mind-body approach to life that helps us to relate differently to experiences. It involves paying attention to our thoughts and feelings in a way that increases our ability to manage difficult situations and make wise choices (Mental Health Foundation).”
6. Get Restful Sleep
Restful sleep is another aspect of health and wellness that many overlook. If you struggle to sleep due to stress, look for ways to improve your sleeping habits, such as adjusting noise or light exposure that may be impacting restlessness.
7. Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
At the end of the day, you are only human. Put things in perspective and take a few minutes each day to appreciate yourself.
Origin Active Lifestyle Communities provides an atmosphere in which individuals can live life on their own terms by promoting a healthy lifestyle by nurturing the mind, body, and spirit. We invite you to find your ideal community, and learn more about our services and what we have to offer.