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Coping with Stress

I decided my next blog post should be about stress as I was feeling a lot of it this week. We all have stress but does anyone really know what to do about it? We all come to accept a certain level of stress in our everyday lives because we think it is just part of how our modern life is meant to be. In a way this is true because there will always be things in our lives we can’t change even though we wish we could. Stress is always going to be a part of our lives.

Our bodies have certain mechanisms for responding to moments of danger as a means of survival. When we are stressed, our fight or flight mechanisms kicks in so we can escape danger. The adrenal glands send out cortisol which sets up a whole chain reaction. In order to flee, our muscles need nourishment, so blood is taken away from digestion and sent to the muscles.  The muscles tense up and you get ready to run- your neck tenses, shoulder hunch up, fists clench, knees bend and your back arches like the start of a relay race. Your brain stops thinking and goes into reaction mode. Your reproductive organs stop functioning because they are not needed. This is all a very good thing if we were being chased by a mountain lion BUT what if there is no danger? Our body will tell us to run while we are sitting in traffic, fighting with our spouse, or trying to frantically finish up work before a deadline. That shot of cortisol has no outlet. All of the same physiologic things happen to our body but we don’t actually run or fight.

Over time, chronic stress begins to take a toll on our body. Ulcers, digestive problems, sexual problems, sleep problems, weight control issues, high blood pressure and anxiety are some of the many problems that come from chronic stress.  This being said, it makes it even more critical that we find ways to cope with stress. There are many choices but three basics help everyone: cardio exercise, deep breathing and relaxation.

Regular cardiovascular exercise disperses the cortisol because it gives our bodies the physical release it needs to eliminate it. Deep breathing is such an easy thing to do and really helps. Deep breathing helps release the muscle tension by moving oxygen and blood through the tissues and clearing the cortisol out.  Conscious relaxation exercises will also help calm you down. You can relax with a cup of tea, light a candle, listen to soft music, or take a bath- whatever you find helps release the tension.

If those things don’t help, it is time to seek professional help to get a handle on the stress and keep you balanced. Acupuncture treatments can help keep you centered and balanced as well as massage or supplements. Stress is always going to be a part your life but there are ways to make it a smaller part.

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