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Understanding stress

woman stressed

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:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression

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

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