Stress Inflammation – Stress Induced Inflammation
It’s often said that stress is the 21st century’s Number One killer. Whether or not you believe that stress is the main culprit, it is certainly a deadly accomplice.
Stress has been identified as one of the most common and powerful triggers of chronic inflammation. People with connective tissue diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, often report a flare-up following a stressful event.
Acute stress is a basic human instinct. When something blows up at work and you’re under pressure, your body secretes the hormone cortisol, also known as the ‘stress hormone’. Cortisol invokes the fight-or-flight reaction, duly energizing you to solve the problem at hand.
It also manages other reactions in the stressed body, protecting the system from going into overdrive. When the matter is resolved, your cortisol levels go back to normal, and you resume activity with a calm body and mind.
Chronic Stress And Inflammation
In cases of chronic stress, however, cortisol can no longer manage the other responses. These become overwhelming and many of them lead to chronic inflammation. One example is digestion which is adversely affected.
If your body is under prolonged pressure, you may notice increasing abdominal discomfort. This is probably because your gut is neither digesting nor absorbing your food well. When the system doesn’t work smoothly, your insides are vulnerable to inflammation.
Below are a few pointers to help you avoid chronic stress and therefore, chronic inflammation.
Anxiety And Inflammation
Everyone has heard about the mind-body connection and how strong it is. But let’s take it one step further. Eliminate the idea of a “connection” and think of the mind and body as one.
If your neck muscles are tender and sore from too much work, could you imagine yourself in a calm state of mind?
Likewise, if you have been carrying heavy burdens of worry for weeks on end, does your body feel persistently fatigued?
There’s no escaping the fact that what happens in the mind affects the body and vice versa. Worry seems inextricably intertwined with modern lifestyles.
Your muscles naturally tense and it can be very, very difficult to talk yourself out of this stress.
Often you find yourself worrying about the fact that you’re worrying and therein begins an undesirable, harmful chain reaction.
Instead of trying to self-soothe through your mind alone, try relaxing your muscles physically. Do some exercise, whether it’s stretching, taking a long walk or spending some time at the gym. Let your mind wander where it will; your job is to focus on the body.
At the end of the session, you would have not only released endorphins, which help lower anxiety levels, your body is likely to feel much more satisfied for the workout. A body that’s relaxed accompanies a more peaceful state of mind.
Mind Over Matters
Naturally the converse is true — a relaxed mind can indeed encourage a relaxed body. Enter the M word. Not everyone likes to meditate. Stressed people especially seem to shy away from meditation. Their main complaint? They can’t stop their minds so they end up even more stressed after the session.
But there’s enough variety and there is something for everyone. Guided meditation is growing in popularity and with good reason.
The premise here is dual: firstly, the facilitator talks you through each session. You can listen to the words instead of the noise in your head.
Secondly, guided meditation recognizes that the mind…has a mind of its own. It’s quite likely you’ll start thinking of the grocery list and how you forgot your sister’s birthday. In guided meditation, that does not matter in the least.
You will be gently encouraged to bring the focus back to yourself. There are many apps out there you can use. Test them until you find one that you are comfortable with. Start with a minute a day and build up from there. A clam mind helps release physical tension.
Stress From Too Much To Do
Then there’s too much to do! Another unfortunate fact of today’s lifestyles is that there simply isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish everything you want. You’ll need to get used to this because nobody – absolutely nobody – can keep up with today’s pace of life.
There is always going to be something left over: emails to clear, forms to fill out and people to call. The most difficult part prioritizing the list because everything and everyone on it seems important. The most likely result is that you go to bed worried. You feel guilty about what you didn’t do and deeply unsatisfied with what you did do. You’re not alone.
That may not be enough to make you feel better but this low-tech mechanism will: keep a diary.
Not on your phone or tablet. Keep a real, paper, daily diary on your desk or wherever you work. Every night, write your to-do list for the next day.
Putting pen to paper will help you remember your tasks. It also eliminates the worry of figuring out what the next day is going to be like. Tick off the tasks as you do them. Copy the undone ones onto the next day’s page.
This second crucial step is often ignored. Recognize the to-do list as an ideal. Life is unpredictable – we may end up doing more or less. More often, however, we end up doing different things. Since these are not on the list, we ignore them altogether.
We feel that the day has been wasted because of the bundle of items left unchecked. Eliminate that dreadful heaviness. List the things that you do get done, whether they’re on the previous night’s to-do list or not.
Do this and you will see where how your time was spent. Let that feeling of accomplishment wash over you as you realize that you did indeed get several things that day.
Stop the Day
Gone are the days when you left work at work. One of the biggest challenges of our era is that the day never really ends. Our over-connected world means that we can be contacted at any time and not just by our bosses.
An email comes in just as you arrive home. A message beeps a second after you’ve crawled into bed. Your instinct? To clear them immediately.
Don’t. Decide on a time when you turn away from your phone, tablet or laptop. Let the messages come in. Train yourself to ignore them. If that’s too hard to handle at first, simply put your device in another room.
Use the time for yourself. Do the things you want to do, not the things you feel you have to do.
Stopping the day means that there is a clear divide between today’s end and tomorrow’s beginning. If you don’t put aside uninterrupted time for winding down, you are only feeding the vicious, hungry cycle of stress.
Instead, refresh yourself and enjoy a much higher quality of life. Most of us can relate to all of the above and more. The truth is that stress is a cunning colonizer – once it visits, it’s determined to stay. When stress becomes chronic, so can inflammation, leading to very poor health over long periods of time.
This will induce more stress and so it goes on, until it is the primary controlling factor in your life. That’s why you have to stop it in its tracks. Become the command center of your own life and flourish.
The above is not a substitute for medical advice from a physician. Stress inflammation is a serious matter. If you suffer from profound chronic stress, consult your doctor immediately and be sure to discuss lifestyle or diet changes you intend to make.