Tips to Eliminate Stress
Chances are you are under a bit of stress these days – who isn’t?! Rising gas prices, constant media coverage of the effects of Hurricane Katrina, another hurricane threatening to head our way once again, our soldiers remaining overseas . . . . is there anyone who is not touched in some way by at least one of these circumstances? And then there are the stressors of our daily lives – traffic jams, deadlines to meet, what to feed the family for dinner – we have so many places to be, people to see, and things to do that it’s no wonder Valium, Xanax, and Ativan are common household staples!
Stressors such as those above, and of course many others, can compound themselves over time and, although they are psychological in nature, may eventually manifest themselves in physical symptoms. Our bodies were designed to be physical, and to react to stressors through physical exertion. In today’s times, it is not always appropriate to react to a stressful situation with a physical response. We cannot run or flee, as our ancestors once did when chased by wild animals. It is not acceptable to fight, as our ancestors did to protect their families. This “fight or flight” response is therefore no longer an effective solution to dealing with stress, although our bodies physiologically haven’t changed that much. A stressful situation still results in stress hormones being released into the bloodstream, preparing the body to fight or flee.
So what happens when the body is prepared to fight, but is immersed in a society that frowns upon physical aggression? The stress hormones build up and create havoc inside, both mentally and physically. Anxiety, depression, and irritability are often psychological signs that we are going through stressful times. Physically, stress can lead to high blood pressure, increased blood sugar levels, chronic headaches, and ulcers. The accumulation of the stress hormone cortisol may lead to weight gain and/or atherosclerosis (the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries). Even when we seem to have a handle on our stressful situations, the very presence of a stressor can lead to such mind and body responses.
So how is one to avoid such stress-related conditions? Since the body is prepared to respond to stressors through physical exertion (back to the “fight or flight” syndrome), it stands to reason that activity and exercise is surely one excellent way to ward off the negative effects of stress. Physical activity not only rids the body of the stress hormones, it also creates more of the positive, euphoria-producing hormones known as endorphins (think “runner’s high”). Increasing your endorphins, even if only for 10 minutes at a time, can change your frame of mind for the better. Creative juices flow, and problem-solving becomes easier, after a bout of exercise.
According to the new updated Food Guide Pyramid, in order to reduce the likelihood of chronic disease, it is recommended that adults get thirty minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week. As physical ailments are often signs of psychological distress, this recommendation supports the mind/body connection as it relates to exercise. So the next time you’re feeling stressed out, try working out! Make it a regular habit to get the recommended amount of exercise daily, and see just how stress-free your life can be!
Meredith Nelson, M.Ed, is the owner of PrimeTime Fitness, Inc, on Sullivan’s Island. Offering group fitness classes, PrimeTime Spin, private yoga, personal training, and monthly gym membership, Meredith divides her time between the gym on Sullivan’s Island and limited in-home training here on Daniel Island, where she resides along with her husband and two cats. Meredith can be reached with your fitness questions at 883-0101, or Meredith@primetimefit.net.