Stress is something that most people experience from time to time and it's a normal part of life. A small amount of stress is usually nothing to worry about; in fact, in some situations, stress is helpful. It can spur you on to achieve things or push you to meet that deadline. But constant or long-term stress can have detrimental effects on your body, wearing you down and making you mentally physically sick.
Recognizing your own stress symptoms can be tricky - there are many of them and they can be hard to pin down. You might not even recognize the symptoms or notice how stress is affecting your body until you get to the breaking point.
WHAT DOES STRESS DO TO YOUR BODY?
Our bodies are pretty resilient. We are designed to be able to experience stress and react to it. There are even different names for the differing types of stress - positive, helpful stress is called eustress. According to Licensed Professional Counselor Casey Lee, "eustress produces positive feelings of excitement, fulfillment, meaning, satisfaction, and well-being." He explains that eustress is good because you feel confident, adequate and stimulated by the challenge you experience from the stressor, like completing a challenging workout or achieving a goal.
Negative, unhealthy stress - the type that you feel when you're permanently overwhelmed and suffering constant challenges is called distress. This type of stress needs to be recognized and dealt with before it builds up and distress-related tension develops.
A BODY IN DISTRESS
Distress is unhealthy and can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms, including headaches, stomach problems (like IBS), raised blood pressure, pains in your chest, and problems with sleep. It's possible that high levels of stress may also make existing medical conditions worse. Another problem that can arise from being over-stressed is that as human beings, we are programmed to look for the fastest and most effective ways to quickly reduce stress levels, and those ways aren't always healthy. Smoking, drinking alcohol or taking drugs may provide temporary relief, but in the long term, rather than relaxing you, these substances tend to keep the body in a high-stressed state. This can lead to even more problems, like addiction and substance-abuse related health conditions.
BETTER WAYS TO COPE WITH STRESS
You'll know the ways that being stressed out affects you personally. Maybe it causes your skin to flare up or break out. Maybe you get an IBS attack. Or you get a debilitating migraine. Don't ignore these symptoms! They are your body's way of warning you that it's all getting a bit too much and you need to calm yourself down. Don't reach for the junk food or the wine bottle when you're stressed. You'll appreciate little treats more when you're relaxed. Relying on unhealthy crutches to get you through can lead to long term issues on top of the underlying stress.
Massage is a well-known stress reliever. Physically, it will un-knot the tense muscles that are causing headaches and neck/shoulder pain. Emotionally, massage therapy stimulates production of the feel-good, critical coping hormones - serotonin and dopamine - so you don't need the chemical relaxants or substitutes. Reach for your massage therapist's number (801.592.5300) the next time the stress builds up and do yourself AND your body a very big favor!