Why Does This Happen?
Well, stress is not just an emotion we feel. It produces reactions in the body that are physical. When we are stressed, our brain thinks it is under attack.
It responds by jumping into survival mode, and sending out neurotransmitters that activate the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is also known as the "fight or flight hormone", or "the stress hormone". When cortisol is released, it takes over the parts of the brain that are normally regulated by hormones that keep us happy, even-tempered, and thinking clearly (the same hormones that are regulated by anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs). Instead, the response is similar to that of adrenaline: thoughts are urgent, hyper, sometimes manic. You may even feel physically and mentally stronger, sharper...it is as if you are ready for battle.
This is not always a bad thing, but if the body is constantly forced into this state by chronic stress, it does not have time to respond, relax, and return to its normal state. This can result in many health problems, such as depression and other mental illnesses, high blood pressure, compromised immune response, inflammation, hormonal imbalances that can cause problems with blood sugar and body weight, and flare ups of skin disorders like eczema, acne, rosacea, and psoriasis. Any and all of these issues can accelerate the aging process of not just the skin, but of the entire body.
Not to mention, in response to stress, people often make poor lifestyle choices, like smoking, drinking, and eating junk food; all of which age us significantly and cause serious health problems.
What Can We Do?
The thought of reducing stress can be stressful to some in itself. Automatically, people think they need to go see a hypnotist, go on some expensive retreat with Shaolin monks, learn Tai Chi, etc. While these may be good solutions, they may not realistic for everyone. There are plenty of real-life things you can do to reduce the stress in your life, some of them mental, some of them physical. But all of them, necessary.
|Quality time with a loved one|
|Create a soothing, relaxing ambiance|
What about you? What positive, healthy, productive things do you do to manage the stress in your life?