Stress is anything that activates or turns on your nervous system. Activation can be thought of as pressing the gas pedal of a car. Our heart rate, blood pressure and breathing increase; our pupils dilate; our digestion slows; blood moves to our arms and legs for quicker movement. Stress can help us respond to an emergency, like moving our car away from another one to avoid an accident. However, long-term stress is harmful and causes damage to our brain and body. Changes (like a divorce, moving to a new home, having a baby, or a change in job responsibilities) can lead to stress. The changes brought on by the Coronavirus Pandemic are another example of possible stressors.
For an inventory of your stress level, take the interactive Life Change Quiz here.
Source: T.H.Holmes and T.H. Rahe. “The Social Readjustment Rating Scale,” Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 11:213, 1967.
Stress can be managed to decrease its effects on your health. Practices that can be used to manage stress include:
- Deep breathing
- Eating healthy foods to support a gut microbiome
- Yoga, especially open chest poses
- Orientation – allowing your eyes to wander and noticing what draws your attention
- Getting a massage
- Connecting with friends and family, in person or over the phone or internet