What Is Chronic Stress?
Stress is the normal reaction of our bodies to external situations and influences. Circumstances arise that cause our bodies to increase heart rate and cortisol is released. In short term situations, like a house fire, this is beneficial. It allows us to escape from danger. After the threat has passed, cortisol levels return to normal and everything is fine. However, other situations, like everyday life, can and do, increase our stress. And when they are under a constant barrage of stressors, then this leads to chronic stress.
If life were so simple that our stress was easily digestible, then all would be well. But that is rarely the case. I know what you’re thinking, “I don’t have any stress; My life is good.” Does this sound familiar?
Morning comes, and the kids need breakfast. Running late for school and work you get everyone thrown into the car to start heading towards your destination. You make the turn out of the neighborhood to find out they are repainting lines on the street, which is causing a backup of traffic. After your five-minute ride to the school turns into 30 minutes, you hurriedly get the kids dropped off, dodge the maze of other parents, and make your way to the highway. You turn onto the highway, praying that traffic goes your way because it takes exactly 22 minutes to get from there to work and you have 27 minutes to get there before you are late. You make the turn onto the ramp and sit. Your highway has become a parking lot.
If you could stop there and do some stress relief techniques, you would be fine, but life doesn’t do that. The demands of home-life, commutes, work and an always-on-always-available stream of negative news, Facebook news feeds, IG posts, and 24-hour lifestyle, keep our levels elevated. This prolonged exposure to all of this outside stimuli compound, until one day, we throw our hands in the air in frustration, scream “I give up!” and collapse from exhaustion. That is Chronic Stress and if left unchecked, it can kill you.
According to an article from the Mayo Clinic, Chronic Stress affects many aspects of your life. Just a few of the tale-tale signs that you are suffering from chronic stress are:
- Changes in Sexual Activity
- Insomnia / Sleep Problems
- Digestive Problems
- Loss of Memory
- Loss of Concentration
- Weight Gain
Any combination of these things add up and can lead to the most dangerous of them all Heart Disease.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Specific stress reduction techniques vary according to each person (maybe running isn’t your thing, but swimming is), but they all share a common theme.
- Find your center through a form of meditation,
- Clear your mind through creative ventures (writing, painting, music, etc.),
- Change your physical habits through exercise and diet,
- And lastly, affect change in your life.
With a stressful life, you can not lead happy life. There is no sense staying stuck in the same rut over and over again, just because that is the way I have always been. Time and again, people say, I don’t have time for meditation. I used to write when I was in college, but then life happened. Once I get home, I don’t have time to cook meals, I order in, I can’t possibly take the time out to go to the Gym with my hectic schedule. None of these statements are correct, we only believe them to be true.
Instead of sitting on the couch, binge-watching episodes of your favorite show. Unplug and do something. Once the habit of reorienting your life starts stress will be something that you knew you once had but will no longer be a present factor in your daily life. Sure, things pop up, but if you remember that there are outlets for the stress and that you have a plan, then you can be sure that you can handle anything life throws at you.