Is chronic stress affecting you?
Stress is a natural and positive part of life. In fact, the good stress is called ‘eustress’ and is what helps you meet deadlines, perform at your best and keep you alive. However, these stresses are meant to be very short-term – just to get us through an isolated event.
What happens when the stress lasts longer? Well this is when chronic stress becomes a real issue. Our body copes with acute stress by giving you a good rush of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, to help you to do what you need to do. After the stress is over, our body returns to its normal state of homeostasis. If the stressor remains, our bodies need to make adjustments to maintain the constant flow of hormones required. To allow for those adjustments, there needs to be shifts and changes in all of our other bodily processes. This is when we begin to feel the effects of chronic stress.
Elevated cortisol over time will affect our immune system, blood pressure, our ability to lose weight and even our brain function. Ironically, elevated cortisol from prolonged stress actually increases the chance of suffering from depression and mental illness.
In this stressful world that we now find ourselves in, we can’t simply avoid all sources of stress. We can, however take steps to mitigate the dangerous effects of chronic stress. Strategies such as exercise, relaxation, taking time out for fun activities, being in nature, meditation, journaling, visualisations….the list is endless. The main thing is to find the activity that feels right for you and make it a lifelong habit.
Take the quiz below to determine how well you are coping with the stress in your life.
In the last week, have you:
1. Experienced insomnia?
2. Felt short of breath?
3. Lacked energy and enthusiasm for tasks you usually enjoy?
4. Had a low appetite or just didn’t feel like eating?
5. Felt that you had little control over your life?
6. Experienced muscle stiffness or chest pains?
7. Felt overwhelmed by your workload/demands?
8. Been short-tempered, irritable or impatient?
9. Experienced fatigue?
10. Had racing thoughts or not being able to switch off from thinking?
11. Felt that there was just not enough time?
12. Suffered with any digestive complaints?
Now, add up the number of ‘yes’ answers and read your results below.
Less than 3
Way to go! You’re keeping the effects of stress at bay. There’s probably a bit of room for improvement but I’m sure you know the areas of your life that need addressing. Try to incorporate a few stress-management strategies to maintain your physical and mental health.
It’s probably time for you to really examine some areas of your life. Are there changes you could make to reduce your stress? If you are experiencing stressors that are out of your control, it’s time to seriously consider mitigating the effects of stress before your long-term health begins to suffer.
OK. Make some decisions TODAY about changes that you can incorporate into your life. These changes need to be simple and sustainable to get you moving back in the right direction. Come back to this quiz at regular intervals to monitor your progress.
More than 10
Back away from the computer and have a good lie down! Your body is functioning on pure survival at the moment. You need to go really easy on yourself and take as much time as you need to repair and recover. Self-care is paramount.
Read about my own journey with stress and burnout,
Burnout’s a bitch!
How I made burnout my best friend – A final lesson from my dad.