Stress in Our World
Generally we are a highly stressed society. According to the American Psychological Association, American Institute of Stress, NY, the following statistics are common in the United States.
- 77 % of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress
- 51% reported fatigue
- 44% experienced headaches
- 48% who say stress has a negative impact on their personal and professional life
- 48% are kept awake at night
Other studies find:
- 1 in 4 experience increased stress levels during the holidays
- 39% eat unhealthy when they are stressed
- 70-80% visits to the doctor are stress related
What Is Stress?
Stress has a few different definitions, the one I am concerned with today is the following from Merriam-Webster:
– a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation– a state resulting from a stress; especially : one of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium <job-related stress>
Some of the effects of high stress are:
- Higher blood pressure
- Faster breathing
- Our digestive system slows down
- Heart rate increases
- Decreased immune system functions
- Tense muscles
- Lack of sleep
Why Do We Have Stress?
Stress is a survival mechanism. We are designed to have stressors that help us evade danger. Unfortunately the stress mechanisms that are natural have not evolved to our modern day stress levels.
Our autonomic nervous system is the part of our brains that controls our heart rate, digestion, respiratory rate, salivation, perspiration, dilation of pupils, micturition (urination), and sexual arousal.
The autonomic nervous system is made up of two subsystems; the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
The sympathetic nervous system is often referred to as the fight or flight system. This system was designed to give us the energy that we need to protect ourselves. It tells our body to increase the production of epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol from the adrenal glands which in turn helps to increase our heart rate, diverts the blood flow from the digestive tract to skeletal muscles to help us deal with danger, dilates the pupils so we can see the threat, dilates the bronchioles of the lung which helps us take in more oxygen and effectively shuts down the immune system.
Once the danger is gone the parasympathetic nervous system takes over and we are able to rest and digest. This system reverses the effects of the fight of flight reaction allowing our bodies to return to normal functions.
Because of our constant levels of stress created by our lifestyles, our body doesn’t completely recover from the fight or flight response thereby causing the dis-eases that we have. This inhibits the immune system, keeps us awake at night and causes poor digestion which in turn creates a lot of illness. No wonder 70 – 80% of doctor visits are stress related.
How To Control Stress
If you control your mind, you control your body. Although many of the effects of the autonomic nervous system are involuntary there are several functions that we can control with our minds.
Here are some easy activities to help reduce your stress levels.
- Short deep breathing exercises even 3 minutes a day can help decrease stress.
- Take time to consciously relax
- Be physically active – walk, run, bike, hike, weights or whatever you enjoy.
- Modify your response to situations
- View challenges as opportunities
- Learn to accept thing that you cannot change or control
Prevent self inflicted stress by accepting your limits, don’t compare yourself to others, do something you enjoy every day, set realistic goals and prioritize, avoid perfectionism, manage your time wisely, don’t bottle your emotions and appropriately share them, express gratitude and grant forgiveness.
Nutrition and Stress
If you eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water your body will be able to handle stress better that if you have a poor diet and are dehydrated. One of the best thing you can do for stress is use essential oils.
Essential Oil Basics
Essential oils are the highly concentrated, volatile, aromatic essences of plants. Essential oils contain hundreds of organic constituents, including hormones, vitamins and other natural elements that work on many levels. They are 50 to 100 times more concentrated than the oils in dried herbs.
Essential oils directly effect the limbic system. The limbic system consists of the hippocampus, fornic, cingulate gyrus, thalamus, mamillary bodies, amygdala and olfactory bulb. The limbic system is not just our smelling mechanism, it is an integral part of man, and has a direct and indirect influence on so many of our body systems. This includes the regulation of the endocrine system and autonomic nervous systems and the resulting patterns of behavior and motivation. Our sense of smell is more than simply a coping mechanism, but fulfills its own regulatory work as well.
Here are some basic essential oils to help reduce stress:
Stress Away – This is a blend of Copaiba, Lime, Cedarwood, Vanilla, Ocotea and Lavender. Copaiba has traditionally been used internally to aid digestion and support the body’s natural response to injury or irritation. Lime has an invigorating and stimulating effect and may help mental clarity and encourage creativity as well as supporting healthy skin. Vanilla may have aphrodisiac and sedative effects. Ocotea has a high level of alpha humulene, which is a compound that helps aid the body’s natural response to irritation and injury, it also has natural cleansing and purifying properties. Cedarwood stimulates the productions of melatonin and Lavender reduces blood levels of cortisol.
Citrus Fresh – This blend of essential oils contains Orange, Tangerine, Mandarin, Grapefruit, Lemon, and Spearmint essential oils. Rich in the powerful antioxidant d-limonene, it supports the immune system and overall health while bringing about a sense of well-being, creativity, and feelings of joy.
Roman Chamomile – This essential oil has a warm, sweet, herbaceous scent that is relaxing and calming for both mind and body.
Stress doesn’t have to make you sick, there are many things that you can do to control the stresses of daily life and have a happy, healthy life.
We would love to hear how you control your stress levels. Please comment below.