Stress involves a number of physical reactions to a threat or destabilizing change. But is it useful? Certainly: it provides your body with the means to handle whatever challenge is thrown at it.
There are three phases to your body’s stress reflex:
- An alert phase that prepares your body for rapid action: the nervous system is activated, secreting hormones (particularly adrenalin). Your heart rate and blood pressure increase, your muscles tense.
- A reaction phase that offers resistance during a prolonged period of stress: your body secretes more hormones (particularly cortisol) to provide the necessary resources for overworked organs.
- An exhaustion phase if the stress continues: your body tires itself out with prolonged and intense energy expenditure; soon it is incapable of reacting normally, either on a physical or a mental level.
The symptoms of chronic stress
During periods of prolonged stress, you shift into the exhaustion phase, and chronic stress symptoms appear.
Firstly your brain, subjugated to a prolonged period of stress, experiences difficulties:
Then, preparing your body to face perceived threats, the nervous system boosts organ function to the detriment of other bodily functions, creating problems linked to this imbalance:
- Pain – especially back pain – from muscle tension
- Digestive problems – constipation, cramps, diarrhea, nausea – linked to sluggish digestion
- Sensitivity to infections – ear, throat or urinary tract infections – due to a reduction in immune system efficiency
- Fatigue caused by these different physical reactions
Fighting stress the natural way
There are several simple solutions to controlling stress and its side effects.
6 solutions for fighting stress:
- Get some exercise in order to boost endorphins, the “happy hormones”
- Breathe: yoga or sophrology can help you slow your breathing and calm down during stressful times
- Take magnesium supplements: the mineral reduces the production of stress hormones
- Introduce calming herbs like Valerian into your routine
- Stretch: stretching exercises or yoga postures can help reduce muscle tension
- Eat a balanced diet so that you’re not putting more pressure on an already sluggish digestive system