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The impact of stress on our body and how to cope with it

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Stress has multiple effects on all the systems in your body. All of them can suffer from it and each has its own response.

  • Your nervous system is the first to react. It signals the adrenal glands to start producing the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which increase your heart rate to get oxygen to your muscles in case you need to act immediately.
  • The cardiovascular system is the next in line. If your heart beats too fast for a long time, it increases your blood pressure causing your heart to overwork which can lead to a heart attack or failure.
  • Your digestive system, in its turn, starts to react by overproducing glucose as your body needs more energy to function under stress. If the stress is chronic, the excess glucose is stored, which can lead to diarrhea, nausea, or even diabetes.
  • Your muscular system also suffers from chronic stress as it causes muscles to tighten and leads to headaches and muscle spasms.
  • Your immune system is also affected. Acute stress boosts your immune system in case you need to fight an illness. Chronic stress, however, affects your body’s reaction to bacteria and infections and you have a greater chance of coming down with the flu and other ailments.
  • Stress can also affect your mind, causing psychological disorders ranging from nightmares to serious mental problems and depression.
  • Health problems aside, there is a direct correlation between your stress level and your energy level, i.e., how much you can get done. So stress has an effect not only on your health, but on your productivity as well.

As you can see, stress affects your body in more than one significant way, and if you want to avoid future problems and health complications, you need to start learning to manage your stress.

Why we cope with stress differently?

Because we are all different.

We all have different life experiences, capacities for physiological resistance to various types of stress, present states of wellness and mood, psychological features, and such differences as age and gender.

Men and women have different ways of looking at problems. Studies among psychotherapists in the UK have shown that men often need help with problems at work, and they need to find a quick solution to cope with the strain. Women are more likely to worry about relationships and health. They need to talk about their feelings in detail more often.

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People who work in different positions also experience varying levels of stress. A subordinate’s stress level will increase as their work becomes less independent. Bosses experience pressure from below: The greater their responsibility for employees, the higher their stress levels.

There is a theory about Type A people. Type A people are usually impatient, irritable, and hostile. They like to be number one at any cost. They have a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases because, in times of difficulty, they are more prone to smoke, drink, and consume more carbohydrates than Type B people.

Overcoming stress also depends on one’s sex, age, life experience, and a million other things.

British scientists found that almost a third of men use sex or porn to combat emotional and mental stress, while more than half of women experience a compulsion to eat.

There are completely “impenetrable”, stress-resistant people, who don’t care about stress at all. They know that in reality a lot of things depend on them. Even if their situation seems unbeatable to an outside observer, they still find things they can control. They don’t always take responsibility for things beyond their control, but look instead for ways to improve their immediate situation.

Presentation stress

When you make a presentation to an investor, think about why you started this project and what your aim is. When you prepare for an important presentation:

  • Just imagine the situation isn’t so important.
  • Expect the unexpected.
  • Practice in front of the video camera.

At the presentation:

  • Concentrate on only what is happening here and now. Regularly practice mindfulness to train yourself.
  • Allow yourself to panic. Tell yourself: “Come on, panic. But only for 5 minutes.” Use the timer on the phone to accurately note the time.
  • Tighten your left hand into a fist, or squeeze a ball in it, if you need to perform on the spot. Mechanical actions with the left hand activate the necessary parts of the brain for performing under pressure. This has been tested in numerous experiments, including athletic competitions.
  • Control your breathing, take a deep breath, slow down.
  • Carry chewing gum or lollipops with you. Digestion of food is associated with the restoration of energy and any chewing movement activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which, in turn, helps you calm down.
  • On the eve of an important event write down all your worries on paper or on your laptop. When you transfer your thoughts to paper, this allows you to formalize and process them. This makes the situation easier to deal with. Use the “Morning Pages” practice to reduce your stress level.

Distinguish small panic before an important event from regular panic, for example, before going out on the street or in the metro. These are so-called panic attacks, and they are reason to make an appointment with a doctor.

How to reduce stress

When you often feel anxiety, fear, or worry about everything — you are experiencing emotional stress.

Use these tips to reduce emotional strain:

  • Try to leave the meeting on the pretext of making an urgent call if you feel like you are about to “explode”. Take a deep breath and remember that life goes on.
  • Straighten your shoulders, raise your head, and straighten your back. Criticism and negative remarks don’t make you a worse person.
  • Don’t drink coffee or eat pastries. Coffee can increase stress and the pastry will cause a sharp rise and a subsequent drop in sugar, which can worsen your mood and state of mind.
  • Don’t smoke. It’s better to call friends or family. The feeling of support will help you to cope with the situation.
  • Joke. Try to turn the conflict into a joke or just smile in a difficult situation. Laughter reduces anxiety. When we laugh our muscles are more relaxed and the heartbeat becomes steadier.
  • Use a break to go outside or just look out the window – contact with nature and the outside world brings relaxation.

Here are some apps that will help you calm down and reduce your emotional stress: Headspace, MyLife Meditation.

How to control stress

Anxiety and stress, connected with the lack of control, only make the situation worse. They affect the prefrontal cortex, responsible for judgement and insight, and lead to a decrease in productivity and feelings of frustration.

Fortunately, there are ways to deal with this feeling and gain at least some control:

  • Try to find small things you can control, even if it is which chair you sit in at a meeting or which desktop screensaver you set. Taking control over small things lowers your stress level as it means being in charge and having an opportunity to make decisions.
  • Find time for yourself. Even if it is just an hour a week, it is important to find an opportunity to do what YOU want, not what others want from you. It will help you unwind and lose tension.
  • Learn to say ‘no’. It is nice to help people and be the one your friends turn too but not if it puts extra pressure on you. If you feel like someone’s asking too much just say no. It is your right to choose to say yes and you can do it only when you want to.
  • Learn to feel your body. External reasons like work or family problems can certainly be the main stress factor. But there’s so much more that can also influence how you feel. That is why it is important to learn body awareness. You can measure your stress level with Welltory and see how the choices you make every day affect your wellbeing and try to get them under control.

How to relive physical stress

It depends on your condition and what has caused your physical stress.

There are many reasons for chronic physical stress, such as spending long periods of time in tensed positions, hard physical work or exercise, and physical reactions to mental stress. Long-term physical stress can even lead to tension headaches and other health problems that limit your functioning. Try some methods of stress-management that you can employ to prevent and cope with stress before it jeopardizes your health.

Use active physical recovery:

  • Reduce the weight you lift during workouts and the number of sets.
  • Gradually increase your physical activity: walks, jogs, light workout.

When you feel really bad, choose a passive recovery technique:

  • Have a full rest without intense physical activity.
  • Take a few days off.
  • Get a massage.
  • Catch up on sleep.
  • Use breathing techniques: slowly inhale and exhale through the nose, pausing in-between. Breathing techniques are not recommended in cases of hypertension.
  • Do slow stretching to activate the parasympathetic part of the nervous system and relieve overstrained muscles.
  • Use muscle relaxation techniques. Start with tension and gradual relaxation of the muscles from head to toe.

Pay attention to your food. Check if you have enough nutrients. Don’t let junk food and sweets bog you down and increase your anxiety hormones. If you have just a couple of free hours a week try a massage course, flotation (imitation of weightlessness in very salty water), visit the sauna or steam room.

Check your stress and energy level with the Welltory app after the stress-relief techniques to understand which one works better for you.

How to cope with mental stress

Here are some tips for fighting mental stress from Hendrie Weisinger, a well-known psychologist, coach to athletes and top managers, and author of the book “Performing Under Pressure“:
  • Train yourself to perceive complexity as a challenge, not as a threat. New challenges increase your adrenaline level and allow more oxygen into your bloodstream. A positive challenge enhances our abilities. Contrary to popular belief, people maximally reveal themselves not when they are stressed out, but when they are able to think about interesting perspectives.
  • Cultivate a positive attitude and concentrate on success. Say to yourself “when I get it”, not “if.” Appreciate yourself as you are and build your self-esteem. It’s been proven that people with strong egos cope with stress better.
  • Remember that no complicated situation is unbeatable. If you realize this, you’ll feel more relaxed. Experiments have proven this. People were given tasks framed in two different ways. One group was told they only have one chance, and another that they will have the opportunity to improve. The second group coped better.
  • Concentrate on the long-term goal, remember why you are doing all this. Don’t focus on the outcome of the situation.
  • Don’t try to control what you can’t control: other people’s reactions, the fluctuations of the market, whether your client likes the color of your socks, and so on.
  • Note your emotions, breath and allow them. Note: You need to be able to recognize your emotions. Studies have shown that people who can do that tend to be more successful and deal with stress better. So if you admit that you are scared or jealous, it will help you deal with it and let the emotion go. Breathe: take 1-2 deep breaths and allow your emotions to seize you. Allow: you do not need to ask yourself why you are feeling like you do. Take a couple of minutes and just live them and you’ll notice that they’ll subside like a wave.

More ways to resolve stress

Follow the basic rules of a healthy lifestyle: a balanced diet and physical activity.
  • choose the right foods to eat and have meals at the right times. When your body digests food, the parasympathetic part of the nervous system is activated; it is associated with rest and recovery
  • eat food that releases mediators of positive emotions. The pleasure-inducing brain chemical dopamine helps you keep calm when you taste chocolate or bite into a juicy steak.

Stress-related eating may add pounds to your weight. You can still try to take off some stress with food, it is just better to learn how to choose the right foods.

Physical activity to resolve stress:

  • Workout. Exercise is an effective strategy to reduce stress. In addition to helping you lose weight and feel physically stronger and healthier, exercise enhances your mental and emotional well-being. It’s important you choose a workout activity that you enjoy. Increased enjoyment will reduce your stress and take your mind off life’s challenges.
  • Meditative practices. Practice yoga regularly. Try Hatha yoga, which combines stretching, breathing techniques, and meditation. It soothes your distressed mind, refreshes your thoughts, tones body muscles and generates new awareness like never before
  • Use any day-to-day opportunity to be active. Go for walk, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and do more housework.
  • Mindfulness practice. We talked in-depth about meditation in the lecture about energy. Exercises that target concentration and muscle relaxation are also types of meditation. There are many studies that have proved that meditation helps reduce stress. Meditation is simple and inexpensive, there are no downsides, and you can practice meditation wherever you happen to be. At first, you will need solitude to meditate, but once you have practiced more, you will be able to meditate anywhere.
  • When you feel that you can’t manage stress on your own, visit a psychologist or psychotherapist. Anyway, remember that stress exists and most likely it is around us every day.

Try different techniques to resolve stress and measure the results with the Welltory app.

Find what helps you to prevent stress

Track your stress.

It’s like in sports. If you want to improve your results you have to track and analyze them. So it is with stress. If you want to find the ideal method for you, you need a way to track your stress. The answer is Welltory — the quick and convenient way to stay informed of your body strain, thanks to the Heart Rate Variability (HRV) method.

In some situations, we can’t feel the strain on our body. Therefore, we may underestimate or overestimate the effectiveness of some methods. For example, in our practice there are already several users who have significantly reduced their alcohol consumption because they saw evidence that it didn’t help with stress, but increased it. Some users changed their schedule to get enough sleep or started practicing mindfulness every day because it really does reduce one’s stress level.

Use these tips to find the ideal method for you:

  • Measure stress every day — ideally, in the morning and in the evening.
  • Analyze your physical activity, computer use, and sleep.
  • Try to apply different methods of fighting stress. Ten days of meditation will likely have a significant effect on you.
  • Try to follow a standard routine, changing only one habit per week. This will help you to see how this or that technique works on you.

Experiment with Welltory. It will help you to develop your own strategy for coping with stress.

Welltory Team, 23 Dec. 2021

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