Stress: Why It’s Bad & Tips to Get Over It!

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Today marks a very special day for me.  It is the last, final and end all…to my 10 1/2 month dietetic internship!  YES!  I’m so excited!  For any RD’s out there, you know how amazing of a moment this is.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, let’s just say that 10 months of working full-time, not getting paid AND paying TO work are finally over and I’m cleared for take off.  I’m finally eligible to work as a registered dietitian (as long as I pass my board exam) and make some mooooooney!

meditation Whew…had to get that excitement out there!  I’ve been so chronically stressed for more than a year, I can literally feel a weight (and lots of it) being lifted off my shoulders.  I didn’t even realize how incredibly stressed I was.  But I was.  Cranky, moody, fatigued and frequently irritable – all those wonderful signs you’re stressed out (there’s over 50 typical human responses to stress!).  Totally not good to have on a chronic basis.  And as I found out at this Women’s Health & Stress conference last Friday, very, very bad for your overall health.  Like, seriously bad for you.  Here’s how:

  • When you’re stressed, your body releases this hormone called cortisol.  Initially this hormone prepares your body for that “flight or fight” response that is needed and quite helpful in stressful situations (think running away from a robber).  You get more energy, your more alert, senses are heightened, etc – very good for escaping robbers.  But when the stress stimulus doesn’t go away, the “good” effects of cortisol start to become negative.  Increased cortisol levels lead to overall inflammation throughout the body.  Over time this causes a variety of chronic diseases and health issues including:
    • increased platelet activation which can lead to blood clots
    • dysfunction in the cells lining the inside of blood vessels leading to inflammation and coronary artery disease
    • increased insulin resistance which can lead to diabetes
    • central obesity which also increases risk for diabetes and heart disease
    • Depressed and dysregulated immune system which increases the time it takes our bodies to fight off and heal from injury.

Final brochurejpb Ok, so that was a bit depressing and STRESSFUL to think about.  But, luckily for me, and all you other stressed out people, I learned how to get rid of stress or at least manage daily and chronic stress.  Here’s how we can do that:

  • Be mindful – yup back to that again.  But think about it.  You’re presented with a stressor (tons of bills, too little time, a big fat RD board exam…).  You can either choose to react to it or your can choose not to.  I can choose to get freaked out and all worked up about my exam or I can choose to accept it, take a deep breath and move on with life.
  • Does anyone ever tell you to “take a deep breath,” when you’re a little “unstable?”  Well…there’s actually a good reason for that.  Focusing on your breath brings your mind away from the stress stimulus and forces you to slow your breathing which in turn helps slow your heart rate and lowers that stress hormone cortisol.
  • Learn Optimism.  This is actually a type of cognitive style – learned optimism.  It just means trying to be or find something positive in all situations and being grateful or hopeful in life.  Hard to do, but well worth the effort of trying.
  • The above thee things are really good for consistent or chronic stress.  But for those random stressors, find things that are relaxing to you – listening to music, taking a hot bath, going for a walk, reading a book, etc.  Something that you can count on and that’s healthy.  Chowing down thru a bag of potato chips because it feels good, is not a good idea.  So find something that you enjoy AND that’s a healthy activity.

And let’s end on a very good quote from Mark Twain:  “I have lived a long life and have had many trouble…most of which never happened.”  How true is that?!

You tell me!  What stresses you out?  How do you relax and de-stress?  What negative side effects have you noticed from chronic stress?

Hey, thanks for reading! Share your thoughts!