Stress can result from major events, both negative and positive: marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, a death in the family, or job changes or pressures. Your body is naturally equipped to deal with a certain amount of stress. But if stress increases and your reserves are low, stress can have a bigger impact.
There are 3 main stages your body undergoes when dealing with a stressful event. Your body will initially mobilize energy by releasing adrenaline and increase your heart and breathing rate. If you remain in the first stage for a while, your body will begin to consume energy stores by releasing sugars and fats. While you may feel more driven, you will also begin to feel pressured, tired, and anxious, and can get sick much more easily. If the stress is still not resolved, then eventually your body will require more energy than it can naturally provide. This can lead to trouble sleeping, mood changes, psychiatric disorders, or heart disease.
Building up your defences is a “long-term” plan for reducing stress. It will also improve your overall health and give you more energy.
To help prepare your body to deal with stress:
- Make sure you are getting enough sleep. Most people need 7 to 8 hours per night. If possible, get extra sleep before and during periods of increased stress.
- Eat a balanced, nutritious diet. Good nutrition can improve your ability to handle stress by keeping your immune system strong.
- Avoid using caffeine, cigarettes, or alcohol as a way of dealing with stress.
It’s easy to relax when you’re not feeling stressed. It takes a special effort to learn how to relax in a stressful situation. There is no “right way” to relax that works for everyone. Most people use a combination of methods, and find that different situations call for different ways of relaxing. You may need to try several techniques before finding the one that works best for you.
Here are a few things that can help reduce stress:
- relaxation exercises like deep breathing, meditation, stretching, tai chi, or yoga
- regular physical activity: try to exercise for at least 150 minutes each week with moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical aerobic activity (e.g., brisk walking, jogging, tennis, bicycling, or swimming); each session should be at least 10 minutes long – the more active you are, the more health benefits you’ll see. It is also beneficial to add muscle and bone strengthening activities, in bouts of at least 10 minutes, using major muscle groups, at least 2 days per week.2
- taking part in a favourite hobby, such as gardening, dancing, reading, or listening to music
All material © 1996-2015 MediResource Inc. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.