Stress can be a good thing. We usually think about stress in a negative light, but in certain situations, stress can save your life.
For instance, your body will release adrenaline, a stress hormone, during an accident, preparing you for a “fight or flight” response, or a protection mode. This adrenaline will cause your body to shut down and force you to focus only on the immediate dangers in your environment. You will slam on the breaks immediately. You might even see and hear things that you might not have noticed normally. In that moment, the stress response is giving you the energy and the focus you need to protect yourself from harm.
According to Medical News Today, when we are under pressure, the body will release stress hormones to help us respond to the threats in our environment. It is a protective function of the body — that’s why we have it. But, when too many stress hormones are released in the body over time, we can develop health problems.
Racy Coffman, psychiatric nurse practitioner at Mental Health America Village in Long Beach says that too much stress can cause a person to be in a constant state of anxiety, leading to mental health problems, like depression.
“The only way the brain has to fix the anxiety is to become depressed,” said Coffman.
Coffman says there can are also physical symptoms of stress.
At the Mental Health America Village, Coffman says that one of the most common stress-induced problems she sees is insulin resistance, which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
“You end up with insulin resistance resulting from high levels of cortisol,” said Coffman. “This adrenaline cortisol response, it floods the blood stream with glucose, because glucose enhances your brain’s function. So you have all these surges of sugar in your blood stream all the time.”
What Causes Stress and How Can You Manage It?
The leading cause of stress in the U.S. was “job pressure,” according to a study conducted by the American Psychological Association and the American Institute of Stress.
It is no different for the many residents in the diverse city of Long Beach who experience stress on a daily basis. In the VoiceWaves video above, locals share their stories about what causes them stress and the methods they use to manage it.
In addition, Coffman shared with VoiceWaves some simple, free, and non-taxing ways that people can take a little time out of their day to manage stress and prevent some of its more dangerous outcomes. Coffman recommends the below plan to all of her clients.
- Exercise – Just 20 to 30 minutes a day is biggest thing anyone can do to reduce stress. Many people think that they just don’t have the time to exercise, but there are ways to use the 10 minutes before you get out of bed in the morning to do some bed exercises like the air bicycle and 10 minutes in the bathroom to do some wall exercises while you brush your teeth.
- Take a Time-Out –People often leave their job only to get in their car and continue to experience stress by thinking thoughts such as, “Did I do this? Did I do that? Is this person angry with me?” An easy way to not let that worry take over on the ride home is to listen to a book on tape. Whatever genre you like, whether it’s Stephen King or romance, listening to someone read to you is a naturally relaxing activity.
- The Ten-Minute Cure – Get that down time in. After you get home from work, take 10 minutes to meditate or to sit still without thinking anything. If you’re not sure how to get started, just listen to something calming and try to imagine yourself in a nice, relaxing place, like at the beach. If you have that meditation break between work and home, you don’t bring that stress home to your loved ones and you eventually become a better husband, mother, or daughter.
- Think Positive – Positive thoughts are very healing to the brain. Everyday, find three things you can think about at bedtime that you found to be beautiful. It can be a smile on a child’s face or the number of green lights you sped through on your way home. Picture positive things at bedtime so you’re not going to sleep with your negative thoughts.
For more information about stress and how to deal with it, visit www.liveyourlifewell.org.