Stress- the "Silent Killer"
So here’s an alarming statistic— the estimated percentage of American adults attempting to control/ manage their stress is 95%. So if you’ve been feeling stressed lately, I want you to know, you’re definitely not alone. When we know better, we do better. The major problem with being chronically stressed is that all disease conditions are complicated by stress and stress has been linked to heart disease, cancer, accidents, and suicide. Stress has been even called the “silent killer” for its role in heart related deaths. You may be wondering how this happens? Simply put; in times of stress the hormone cortisol is released into the bloodstream and the body’s inflammatory cascade begins. Stress can manifest with cognitive symptoms like anxious thoughts, constant worrying, difficulty concentrating, and can even impact our memory. We can experience emotional symptoms like being more irritable to our family, friends, or co-workers, feeling overwhelmed and even feeling lonely. We can experience physical symptoms like aches and pains, muscle spasms, racing heart, digestive issues, and weak immune system making us more prone to getting sick. And lastly we can experience behavioral symptoms like over or under eating, isolating ourselves, sleeping too much or even not being able to get a good night’s sleep at all.
I’m not telling you these things to make you feel more stressed out. I’m mentioning these things so that we (myself included) can be more aware that while stress seems to be a “normal” part of our daily lives, we have to work on doing some things to relieve our stress to allow our bodies to relax and heal.
There are physical, emotional, and even nutritional ways to manage stress that we are going to dive into. Physical solutions to reduce stress include exercise whether that be yoga, walking, weight lifting, swimming, group exercise classes or team sports. Exercise has a direct effect on our hormones. During exercise and even for some time after we’re finished exercising, our body releases endorphins (happy hormones) while decreasing cortisol (stress hormone). Some solutions to our emotional stress is to create a “stop doing” list. Write down the things you want to stop doing (put post-its where you spend the most time: desk at work, bathroom mirror, nightstand, etc). A stop doing list might sound something like this: stop scrolling social media constantly, stop having your phone next to you at bedtime, stop criticizing, stop working through your breaks, stop gossiping about co-workers, stop drinking soda, or eating sweets, stop sitting for extended periods of time, stop complaining, stop comparing yourself to others– you get the idea. Instead of adding things to your plate, start taking some away. Other emotional ways to manage stress include meditation, reading, or hands-on therapies like massage, floatation therapy, acupuncture, or chiropractic. Nutritional ways to reduce stress are generally handled best on a one to one basis depending on age, gender, health goals, lifestyle, etc. A general rule of thumb is that proper hydration (water) helps eliminate waste from our bodies making them function better. A good goal for most people is half of your weight in ounces of water consumption daily. For example, someone who is 180 pounds would aim to drink 90 ounces of water. My other advice is to try to do most of your grocery shopping around the perimeter of the grocery store- vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy. The inside aisles tend to be filled with more processed foods.
Control the things in your life that you can but then let go of the things you can’t. grab yourself a book, sip on a cup of coffee, go fishing—do something daily that makes you happy to reduce your stress and lower the amount of cortisol in your body. Lastly, they say (genuine) laughter is the best medicine. Laughter increases oxygen in your body, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and activates our happy hormones. Here’s to trying to lead a less stressful life!
Dr. Doug and Jeanette love teaching people about health and wellness. If we haven't covered a topic that you're interested in, feel free to leave a comment and we'd be happy to give you our thoughts!