Tips for Beating Chronic Stress

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Tips for Beating Chronic Stress

Summary:
– Stress wears down our health reserves
– Chronic stress has been associated with:
– Biological ageing
– Oxidative stress and inflammation
– Suppression or abnormal regulation of immune function
Stress can:
– Impair our brain structure
– Increase our susceptibility to infection
– Increase our susceptibility to conditions such as depression, heart disease and various forms of cancer
Other impacts:
– Take a toll on your relationships
– Affect your performance at work
– Becoming isolated and avoiding social situations as you feel more anxious

Major male endocrine glands:
– Pituitary gland
– thyroid gland
– Adrenal gland
– Testes

Major female endocrine glands:
– Pineal gland
– pancreas
– ovaries

Effects of chronic stress on the various body systems:
1) Cardiovascular system
– Higher heart rate and stronger contractions
– Causing the blood vessels and the heart to dilate
– Due to an increase in the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol
– Long-term ongoing stress can increase the risk of hypertension, heart attack or stroke

2) Gastrointestinal system
– Impairing gastrointestinal barrier function
– Altering intestinal microflora
– Leading to symptoms such as:
– Nausea, cramping, flatus, pain, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation

3) Musculoskeletal system
– Muscle tension is a reflex reaction to stress
– This muscle tension can trigger other reactions in your body such as headaches and migraines

4) Respiratory system
– Respiratory rate increase leading to heavy breathing
– This can have major effects on those who suffer from asthma or lung disease
– Intense breathing can also trigger panic attacks

5) Reproductive system
– In women, chronic stress can affect menstruation and may cause absent or irregular menstrual cycles, more painful periods & changes in length to the menstrual cycle
– In men, chronic stress can affect testosterone production, sperm production and maturation, and may even cause erectile dysfunction or impotence

6) Endocrine system
– Cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands – & prolonged, elevated cortisol levels can lead to hypertension, glucose intolerance, diabetes, fatigue, muscle loss and increased infections

The Good News
– Stress is a process not a diagnosis
– We experience stress when there is an imbalance between the demands being made on us and our resources to cope with those demands
– The level and extent of stress a person may feel has a lot to do with their attitude to a particular situation
– Stress management strategies are therefore important
– Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, massage, exercise, problem-solving, skills development, planning a holiday, seeking professional help

Five Other Ways to Manage Stress
1) Diet
– Increase unprocessed foods, healthy fats, vegetable or fish protein, seven or more brightly coloured vegetables and fruits every day
– also Include whole grains, nuts and plenty of water to boost anti-oxidants, vitamin and mineral intake so as to reduce inflammation caused by chronic stress
2) Supplements
– Seek medical advice To address any hormone imbalances as well as any interaction effects with other medications you may be taking
3) Quit smoking
– The behaviour is heightened under times of stress
– Smoking increases inflammation and the body’s response to stress
4) Exercise
– Aim for low to moderate intensity sessions as exercise increases cortisol levels
– Aim to exercise for 30 minutes most days, with as much incidental activity as possible
5) Sleep
– 7 to 8 hours approximately
– Avoid eating, exercise and drinking alcohol or caffeine within two hours of going to bed
– Sleep in a dark, quiet, cool room and use ear plugs or an eye mask if necessary

Source: University of Canberra Monitor April 2017 (Clark – dietician)

#MarkTaylor
#CanberraPsychologist

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