Problems start when the stress reaction doesn’t switch off. During these times our bodies release fats into the blood stream to provide energy to our muscles. This goes back to pre-historic times when our ancestors were faced with a Sabre Tooth Tiger, fight or flight. The fuel to the muscles helped them to run away!
Over long periods of time these fats contribute to narrowing the coronary arteries, one of the main causes of angina and heart attacks. Long term activation of stress symptoms can be hazardous, even lethal to our bodies. You are at risk of developing many health problems that most people do not realise are in large part attributable to stress, these include the following:
Stress accounts for over one third of all new incidences of ill health and each case leads to an average of 30.9 days off work.
What can we do?
Become physically active
Regular activity helps us to keep our cardio-vascular system efficient which helps to keep blood pressure at a healthy reading. (Click on the Health page Blood Pressure for more details)
When we are being physically active we are distracting ourselves from whatever worries we have. For that time we can forget our problems and ‘switch off’
We like what we see!
After a while we can see a change in our physical appearance and fitness level, this helps us to have a positive effect on our self-image which helps with depression. This is also helped by an increase in blood flow to the brain.
We become healthier
Physical activity stimulates the lymphatic system. This system is our body’s internal filter system; it’s like the filter system in a fish tank which gets rid of impurities in the water. In our bodies it clears away toxic waste produced by stress reactions and protects us from illness and disease by carrying a fluid around the body which contains white blood cells. The system doesn’t have a pump to transport it around but relies on contractions from our muscles. Being physically active helps us to push the lymphatic system around more efficiently.
It lifts our mood
Exercise releases a morphine-like substance in to our blood stream. You may have heard of people saying they experience the ‘joggers high’. This is the reaction to the shot of adrenaline or endorphins which act as an antidepressant.
As we now know, at times of stress we release fats in to our blood stream, when we exercise we release hormones in to the blood which act like a Pac Man and goes through the arteries and gobbles up all the harmful fats helping to keep them from becoming blocked.
But I hate exercise!
There are many activities that you can do, If I mention exercise to someone they immediately think of a treadmill. To some people this is a Woo Hoo! moment, to others it’s more of a Oh No! reaction.
The good news is that any form of exercise is good, dancing, swimming, gardening, walking, cycling, studio classes, football, cricket, in fact anything that gets your heart rate up for 20 minutes or more 5 – 7 times a week.
If you enjoy what you are doing the chances are that you are more likely to continue to do it. If it’s a chore and you dread doing it then obviously it won’t take long for you to drop out.
Take time to relax
Some people find it very easy to relax, others have to be taught how to do it and if they don’t get it right they give up.
There are good reasons to relax everyday: it allows the immune system to recover and so function more efficiently, it lowers blood pressure, which reduces the likelihood of strokes and heart attacks and it gives you ‘time out’. It lowers the activity with the Limbic system of the brain, the emotional centre.
Instructor led classes can help people who find relaxation difficult. Try Hatha Yoga, Tai Chi / Chi Kung and Pilates. These sessions perform exercises and breathing techniques which can help you to inner focus.