We live in times when we are expected to look young and beautiful forever, have only success, have new ideas, and be seen at trendy locations… sleep lit-tle, eat less or way too much, and function at 120%… but is this possible?
As a psychologist and psychotherapist, I see more and more often people suffering from chronic stress in my office. The causes of this tend to be varied but are usually tied with having too high expectations for ourselves.
It’s a good idea to take a closer look at what exactly is stress, how to recognize it and how to manage it. Stress alone is nothing bad. In the past, it had a very important function…it helped assess risky situations and managed our fight or flight response. Today we are no longer attacked by wild animals, but we still need our stress to motivate us… Unfortunately, an overabundance of difficult situations in life can cause an overabundance of stress…and this, in turn, causes us to have too much cortisol (stress hormone). Let’s take a moment to look at what happens in our body when we have too much cortisol and what are the effects of this.
Cortisol is a steroidal hormone and influences the glucose levels in our blood, so as the body reacts to stress there is an increase in glucose levels. Normally the levels of cortisol in our blood is regulated based on the time of day. Highest in the morning and systematically decreasing as to reach its lowest point around midnight. This seems to be obvious.
Constant and chronic stress causes an increase in cortisol levels in the blood throughout the day. This can lead to obesity, hypertension, osteoporosis, immunological disorders, and glucose disbalance.
As is evident stress can influence our somatic health, though another danger is that to our mental health. The consequences of living through immense stress can cause depression, phobias, insomnia, disturbed salivation, apathy, dystymia, generalized unhappiness and lack of satisfaction in life, suicidal tendencies, and many more.
Research proves that short term stress can have a positive eff’ect on the body and increase our immune system. A small and intensive amount of stress may sharpen the senses, improve memory, and fight off’ an infection.
Where does stress come from? What sort of life experiences cause its highest levels?
This brings to mind a patient of mine who showed up in my office two months after the death of her husband … This is the highest position on the list of all stressful events in life. The woman had her hair tum white over the course of one day, lost 15 kg in a month, suffered from insomnia, bouts of crying, apathy, and adaptive disturbances. The first sessions were primarily spending time with her in silence, during which she mainly cried. After some time, the patient started to manage her grief, and the stress started to pass. If the level of stress was maintained at this level, in the long run, the patient would also suffer somatically and would start to get it.
A few months after the first visit, the patient started to sleep during a better part of the night and eating quality meals.
Another event that has a major impact on the cortisol levels is divorce. The very fact that a family falls apart is difficult enough and surrounded by stress. Often enough people involved in a divorce are at odds and doing immense damage to one another for years to come … As a paradox, pleasant life events such as marriage, pregnancy, or even Christmas also cause stress.
I would like to stand in defence of this silent killer which stress undoubtedly is. Research proves that short term stress can have a positive effect on the body and increase our immune system. A small and intensive amount of stress may sharpen the senses, improve memory and fight off an infection. People going through what is known as short term stress can be more creative and work more intensely. Often enough decisions made under stress turn out to be better than after thinking it over for a long time. Ad hoc decisions are more influenced by our values than calculated ones, so mare honest toward ourselves and others. The short term stress is also useful at work because due to it we are better during presentations or negotiations. The cause of this is a sudden mobilization of the body in a situa-tion that it considers being a threat. .. Research indicates that running or working out in a state of short-term stress allows for faster use of cal-ories. As you can see, stress has its positives, but only in a short-term format.
To conclude, I would like to mention how to deal with stress. There are many methods, and sure-ly everyone has their own … The most important part of dealing with stress is understanding the cause. Stress is only a symptom. lt’s a good idea to work on breathing techniques as a well oxygenated body manages considerably better. It’s important to maintain balance in life and not to overwork, taking care of personal relationships, participating in physical activity, and even ensuring a balanced mea! eaten promptly.
In a word … Quality, not Quantity.