Stress this stranger! I can’t think of more words that are so used (and abused) and of which so little is known. It is not only little known (what is it? A scientific concept, a medical one, a physiological state, a situation in life, a state of mind… Mah!). Even more worrying, even less is known about what we can do to be simply less stressed.
I will try to give some ideas and answers, once again unpretentious.
Few things to know about stress
- As a concept, it derives from physics and expresses the resistance of a material to bending, torsion and traction. It is a relative concept. Applied to people, it means I can “break” when confronted to a stressor where another person does not even see it.
- A stress reaction is a physiological event, called the “fight or flight response” and leads to the secretion of stress hormones, such as adrenaline (short-term stress) and cortisol (long-term stress).
- In itself, it is neither negative or positive. What can become harmful is the accumulation of physiological consequences of unmanaged stress. When stressful events are many and repeated, when the body does not fit or if the response is inadequate or too long (see Bruce Mc Ewen). In those cases, stress may lead to degeneration of organs, cells or tissues.
- Prolonged and unmanaged stress is the leading cause of neurological degeneration, which in no way is related to age, unlike we used to think 20 years ago.
- In the US it has been estimated that 80% of visits to medical doctors are related directly or indirectly to stress.
How to deal with it
It looks important… what can we do to better cope with that, since we’re often so stressed, also due to the ordinary mega-information?
1. Build fulfilling relationships. It is known that stress affects us less when we have dear friends, good relationships and family bonds, a community of like-minded people… social support.
2. Slow down your breathing rhythm. On average we breathe 15 times per minute. Bringing this rate to 10 or even 5 breaths per minute leads to an exponential increase in the ability to cope with stressful situations. The techniques to gradually reach that goal are many, you can start to slow down your breathing in a controlled manner for a few minutes a day.
3. Meditate (the main remedy I would say). 3 minutes a day are enough. Try the eight stroke breathing for energy and stress release.
4. Adopt a balanced lifestyle: do regular exercise (20-40 minutes a day of moderate exercise, including walking, are enough), eat well (especially restrict substances that worsen the situation such as coffee, animal fats, too processed food and refined sugars), make sure that your sleep is good and regular.
If you want to learn more about all that see the stress management section of our playlist on YouTube.