When it comes to stress, it's important to think about managing it versus eliminating it. Unfortunately, reality is that throughout our lives, bad things will happen. Things we don't agree with or understand will happen. Many of those things are out of our control, but we DO have the power to control our reactions to these things.
Even if living a totally stress-free life were possible, you wouldn't want to. Stress can be a helpful force in our lives by adding some excitement, urgency, and energy.
But prolonged, unmanaged stress can cause a lot of problems:
- we feel tense
- we feel irritable
- we are tired
- we can't stay focused
- we have trouble sleeping
The stress reaction is a primitive, built-in response to an intense situation. When we experience stress, the brain sounds an alarm and sends out stress hormones like adrenaline, norepinephrine and cortisol. These hormones increase blood flow to the brain and muscles by as much as 400%!. The heart beats faster. Breathing is faster. Muscles tense. Digestion shuts down.
Recent studies show that 60 to 90 percent of illness is brought on by stress! Common stress-induced medical problems include:
- heartburn and acid reflux
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- irritable bowel syndrome
To effectively mange the stress in your life, try to eliminate as many stressful situations as possible, and create a healthy plan for how to react to the stress that still does come your way. No one technique works for everyone. No one technique will work for you every time. Experiment to find what makes you feel the most calm and centered.
We know that being happy and laughing makes us feel good, and recent studies show that laughing actually brings us health benefits, too! Laughter boosts our immune systems, helps to reduce cravings for certain foods, relieves stress, speeds healing.
Unfortunately, adults aren't using this easy, fun, powerful medicine enough. A study shows that as we age, the number of times a day we laugh seriously decreases. Pre-school age kids laugh about 400 tiimes a day! Adults only laugh about 17 times a day!
Here's another interesting piece of research: if laughter does not come to you naturally in the beginning, fake it! Studies have shown that a fake smile or laughter can also do you good. In fact, in yoga there is actually an exercise that involves forced laughing. Chances are good that the more you laugh, the easier it will become to find and acknowledge the funny parts of life.