An Overview of Stress

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Origin of Stress

Would it surprise you to know that stress is a natural process within our bodies? It’s true. Stress originates from our “fight or flight mechanism”, our natural defense against predators and danger. 

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So what are the signs that our natural defense mechanism is kicking in? In basic terms, we have internal triggers (stress hormones) that heighten our muscle preparedness and alertness. It also induces sweating, increased blood pressure and a faster breathing rate. Does all of this sound familiar?

In small doses this kind of stress is a good thing. It’s something you want in a time of need. However, as our environment has changed overtime, the triggers for our defense mechanism have also changed.  Today we face far more stressors than ever before, which affects our bodies on an unhealthy level. Our bodies weren’t designed for this level of stress accumulation. 

Most of us can relate to two popular stress triggers in our daily life: Social interactions and the work place. Both of these can lead to anxiety, which isn’t healthy. These stressors just scratch the surface, in fact the World Health Organization has named stress as the epidemic of the 21st century.

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Typical external stressors include:

  • Life changes
  • Environment 
  • Unpredictable events 
  • Workplace
  • Social 

On the other hand internal factors can also produce high levels of stress, such as:

  • Fears
  • Uncertainty or lack of control
  • Beliefs

Any of these above factors can take form or develop into one of three general classifications of stress.

Types of stress:

Acute

The way most of us experience stress is considered short term and classed as acute. It usually involves thinking about a future event in our life or work. Think about planning a wedding… See, I have already stressed you out! A lot a time is spent planning the wedding in detail, but once the wedding is over, successfully, the stress is released. Normal symptoms of acute stress include headaches and stomachaches. So watch out for those signs.

Episodic

Episodic stress is a continuation of more frequent acute stress. This type of stress can result from taking on too many tasks. Typically this is known as multitasking. Unfortunately studies are starting to reveal the negative effects of multitasking. Think of it this way… you’re at work and have planned out the day to meet various deadlines, but your boss comes in and with a blink of an eye adds three more tasks to your day’s workload. There is only so much multitasking any of us can do efficiently. If this is a common occurrence for you then maybe you’re heading from episodic to chronic stress. 

Chronic

Chronic stress is devastating! This is the type of stress you want to avoid if at all possible. It will grind a person down overtime. Because of the unrelenting nature of chronic stress, it can become an ingrained part of the makeup of an individual. A person dealing with chronic stress does not see a solution so they will internalize it. Over time this becomes the norm. Now the stress goes unnoticed until an inevitable breakdown occurs. The breakdown can lead to severe health problems, violent reactions, and/or suicide.

Our Ability to Cope

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As we have learned, stress has its roots in a natural process, but it is important to realize that not everyone has the same ability to cope with stress. There are examples of this all around us. You probably know someone that can take everything in their stride, where absolutely nothing seems to phase them. Conversely you also probably know someone that falls to pieces at the drop of a hat. What this illustrates is that we all have to find our own personal balance between our mental capacity and the various demands we encounter in life. A person’s personality, attitude, and philosophy of life will influence the effects of stress.

Here are a few different signs of stress for you to consider:

Emotional signs of stress:
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  • Depression 
  • Anxiety 
  • Irritability 
  • Low sex drive
  • Memory and concentration 
  • Compulsive behavior 
  • Mood swings
Physical signs of stress:
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  • Low energy 
  • Headaches
  • Upset stomach 
  • Aches pains, tense muscle 
  • Chest pain
  • Insomnia
  • Colds
  • Shaking, nervousness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Dry mouth
  • Grinding teeth, clenched jaw

Everyone has encountered at least one of the above at some point in their life. But even though some aspects of stress are good and helpful, it’s important we can manage these levels for our overall health. If we don’t keep our stress hormones within a good range we are likely to weaken our immune system over time, as well as other body systems. 

How to Manage Stress

This is what lifescaping is all about. You choose how you build your life, but here are just a few options to apply in your personal lifescape to manage your stress: 

Exercise:

It has been proven time and time again of the benefits of exercise. My family has decided to take walks, which has now morphed into nature hikes. We are started small covering 2 – 3 miles, but I love to hear the chatter of my daughters as we walk together. It is very calming to me. Getting outside daily in itself is a big positive change, and there’s something about fresh air.

Nutrition: 

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What’s the point of exercising if your diet is poor? We’re not talking just about fast food but the food we choose to eat daily.  Like most things, we need to eat in a balanced way. Understand also what you’re buying!  A recent study has indicated a strong link between heart disease and sugar. That probably isn’t surprising.  I know many don’t like to read ingredient lists, but I find myself constantly looking for added corn syrup in foods to avoid it. They are sneaking it in everywhere. It’s not only my health to think of, but the long term health of my daughters. It’s worth taking the extra food moments before making a purchase and making changes in our choices. 

Priorities:

Guess what, as you’re designing your lifescape, it is okay to say ‘no’. If anyone tries to add too much to your schedule, stand up for yourself  and your health. Just remember be nice about it. Realistically we cannot do it all, and it’s not right for others to put demands on us that negatively impact us. Priorities are key so we don’t over do it. 

Time: 

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Take time for yourself. Picture time as the element that refuels energy bank (batteries). As you spend time on others, the energy bank empties. If you run out of energy how do you refill it. You can keep pushing forward expending energy you truthfully do not have, but eventually a breakdown happens. Take time to recharge you energy bank. It’s so important. 

Diffusing:

Diffusing essential oils can make a huge difference for those with occasional stress and anxiety. Frankincense is very popular for this. It has:

  • A sweet, warm, balsamic aroma that is stimulating and elevating to the mind.
  • Useful for visualizing and centering. It has comforting properties that help focus the mind.
  • It’s the anointing oil the Middle East, and has been used for thousands of years. 
  • More recently it has been used in European and American hospitals and is the subject of substantial research.   Check out our blog on Frankincense HERE for more information. 

If dealign with a lot of stress, top up with immune stimulating essential oils such as Geramium, Rosemary, Lavender and Tea Tree.  Lavender is well known for it’s calming effect on the mind and body. 

Here are our household essential oil favorites, as well as for many others, to diffuse or breathe in directly during these times:

  • Stress Away (Copaiba, Lime, Cedarwood, Lavender, Ocotea, and Vanilla extract)
  • Peace & Calming (Tangerine, Orange, Ylang Ylang, Patchouli, and Blue Tansy)
  • Roman Chamomile 
  • Valor (Black Spruce, Camphor, Blue Tansy, Frankincense, and Geranium)

Roll It On:

There are also plenty of options when it comes to on-the-go. For example you’re stuck in a traffic jam, or about to take an audition and need something calming without getting essential oils all over your hands. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Stress Away Roll On
  • Peace & Calming Roll On 
  • Nature Ultra’s Calm CBD Roll On

Stress is a massive topic, this only scratches the surface. Find out what works for you. However, reducing your own personal stress levels will have a major healthy impact on your long term physical and emotional state. 

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References:

American Psychological Association

Why stress happens and how to manage it

Understanding Work Stress

Stress in America Press Room

How stress affects your health

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