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The Stress Test

Have you ever felt like your pain is lingering and you just can’t get a hold on things because you’re exhausted, can’t focus and always getting sick?  Well stress may be the culprit.

Stress in 2019

The world we live in is full of stress triggers – imminent deadlines, challenging relationships, new jobs, financial difficulties,illness of a loved one… the list goes on and on.   It is a part of living in the 21st century. Recent studies show that Australians (yep, us care-free, easy-going people known for having a good time and living on a tropical island oasis in the middle of the ocean where people surf and have barbecues all day long) are as stressed out as the rest of the world.  Gallup’s 2019 Global Emotions Report found that Australia was right on the global average (35%) of people who responded affirmatively to the question of whether they experienced a lot of stress the previous day. That’s not to mention those who experience medium or low levels of stress on a daily basis. But we do not need a global survey to tell us that each and every one of us experiences stress in our lives.  However, the difference is what effect that stress has on each one of us. Stress has the ability to affect all aspects of our lives, including our emotions, behaviours and physical health and is able to affect each and every part of our bodies.

So what is stress?

Our stress response is a life saving response, designed to act quickly in reaction to harmful situations, whether they are real or perceived. This “fight or flight” response causes an automatic and involuntary surge in the release of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol – super helpful if you need to fight off an intruder or flee for your life – but perhaps less necessary when the printer jams up at work. Your heart rate increases, breathing quickens, muscles tighten and blood pressure rises, thanks to the spike in adrenaline. Cortisol floods the bloodstream with glucose (sugar) to provide energy to our muscles. It also shuts down non-essential functions such as your digestive and reproductive systems, your immune system and even your growth processes. Once the imminent danger has resolved our stress levels gradually return to normal, regulating our hormonal levels and re-establishing all body functions. However, the real issue lies in the fact that modern day stressors often present themselves in a very different way than they did for our primitive ancestors for whom the response was developed. While spotting a tiger in the distance may have necessitated a short and sharp stress response; today stressful relationships, constant deadlines and financial woes often last longer and occur more often than their equivalent stresses occurred for our ancestors. The hormone surge is no longer fleeting, and as a result we find that this stress response starts to take its toll. Long-term activation of the stress-response system and overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can put you at risk of many health problems, and contribute to symptoms such as:

  1. Decreased energy

  2. Insomnia

  3. Digestive problems

  4. Frequent colds or infections

  5. Inability to focus

  6. Low self-esteem, depression

  7. Aches, pains and tense muscles


Keeping those stress levels down Learning to manage your stress levels is the key to keeping your health in check and get you back on track.  Here are 5 simple lifestyle choices proven to reduce stress and anxiety (and, importantly, lower those pesky cortisol levels):

  1. Regular physical activity

  2. Practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga, mindfulness & meditation

  3. Social Connectivity (as in connecting with people; not just liking their posts)

  4. Laughter

  5. Music


Well, I’m off to go for a meditative (#2 tick) run (#1 tick) to a comedy show (#5 tick) with a friend (#3 tick) while listening to music (#4 tick).  You may fine that its less stressful to just do one of these at a time Laura

© Agility Osteopathy 2020

 

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