Stress is considered to be the most pernicious factor that leads to early death and poor health.
The most stressed-out people are at a greatest risk of premature death. In fact, it isn’t only major life stresses, such as job loss or divorce, which can kill you; but it is also how you react to everyday stresses, such as traffic jams.
How Does Stress Affect Your Body?
In case of acute stress, your body start releasing stress hormones like cortisol, which prepare your body to flee or fight the stressful situation.
In addition, this elevates your blood flow and heart rate, causes your lungs to take in a higher amount of oxygen, and temporarily suppresses parts of your immune system, thus lowering your inflammatory response to microorganisms and any other foreign invader.
Chronic stress dramatically elevates the levels of cortisol, thus triggering high levels of inflammation. This can have a negative impact on your immune system, memory, and blood pressure.
Moreover, inflammation is also a major culprit of almost all diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
Chronic Stress Plays a Role in PCOS
Stress has also been associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome. PCOS is a condition triggered by increased male sex hormones, known as androgens, which have a negative effect on a woman’s weight, fertility, menstrual cycles, and more.
In addition, this could be particularly true in case you:
- Have below normal or normal weight and you don’t suffer from insulin resistance;
- Don’t experience cystic ovaries;
- Undereat and overtrain to enhance your physique.
Stress causes your body to create many hormones, including ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) that causes the adrenals to create stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.
Furthermore, ACTH also induces the secretion of androgen hormones, such as androstenedione. This hormone is actually one of the 2 main androgenic hormones that cause the symptoms of PCOS in women.
Stress Could Also Raise the Male Sex Hormones in Women
Insulin resistance is another risk factor for PCOS. Moreover, keeping your nonfiber carb intake below 50g daily can significantly help. Also, stress plays a significant role here.
Those women that experience chronic stress are at a higher risk of raised ACTH and androgens. That’s not all, their hormones could also begin to react intensely to a stressful situation.
Of course, there are a lot of women whose PCOS symptoms are triggered by physical inactivity, poor diet, and excessive intake of refined sugars and carbohydrates.
It Also Affects the Way Fat Is Accumulated in the Body
Difficulty losing weight and weight gain are a quite common problem related to stress. Additionally, stress-related weight gain often includes an elevation in abdominal fat, i.e., the most dangerous kind of fat, because it can raise your likelihood of cardiovascular disease.
Furthermore, stress affects the manner fat is accumulated in your body due to the hormones your body creates during stressful situations. Recent research has proven that chronic stress could cause the body to create betatrophin, i.e., a protein that helps block an enzyme, which helps break down body fat.
Good Resilience Could Reduce the Negative Effect of Stress
Keep in mind that the way you manage stress determines whether it will contribute to health issues later on. Namely, the stress reaction needs to dissipate quickly after the perceived danger has gone away.
Experts use the term resilience for this because it is your body’s ability to quickly return to normal, emotionally and physiclly, after stressful situations.
Some experts claim that people that are more resilient know how to listen to their body. Specifically, in an experiment, Special Forces soldiers and elite athletes were placed in a machine for brain scanning while wearing face masks, which made it hard to breathe.
The results showed that the participants could closely observe the signals from their body suggesting rising panic, and inhibit their physical response. Although they were completely mindful of their biological stress response, they did not overreact.
That’s not all, “normal” people were also included in the same experiment later. Moreover, the participants whose scores showed high resilience experienced a similar brain activity to the elite athletes and soldiers.
But, the participants whose scores showed low resilience actually reacted in a different way. As the face masks they were wearing threatened to close, they showed little activity in those parts of the brain that observe signals from the body. Furthermore, when they had trouble breathing, they experienced high activity in parts of the brain, which elevated physiological arousal.
They did not actually pay too much attention to what was really happening within their bodies because they simply waited for breathing to become hard and overreacted when it happened.
The researchers concluded that these brain responses could undermine resilience, since they could make it harder for the body to return to a calm state.
However, they pointed out that spending several minutes on a daily basis in focused breathing can help you manage stress. You should also focus on breathing in and breathing out without any other reaction. This may help enhance your reaction in any stressful situation.
These Breathing Exercises Could Lead to Good Resilience and Decreased Stress
There are a variety of breathing exercises out there that could help you soothe your mind as well as calm your body. Additionally, Dr. Andrew Weil suggests using the 4-7-8 breathing technique whenever you experience something upsetting and when you are mindful of internal tension.
First of all, you should not forget the numbers four, seven and eight. Simply focus on getting the ratio correct.
Even though you can practice this breathing exercise as often as you want during the day, avoid doing more than 4 full breaths within the first 30 days of practice. Then, you can work your way up to 8 complete breath cycles at a time.
To do, start by sitting up straight and then place the tip of the tongue up against the back of the front teeth. Make sure you keep your tongue there during the whole breathing process.
Inhale silently through the nose to the count of four.
Afterwards, try to hold the breath to the count of seven.
Next, breathe out through the mouth to the count of eight. Make sure you make an audible sound. This completes a full breath.
It is advisable to repeat the same procedure another 3 times for four breaths.
These Exercises May Help You Fight Breathing-Related Stress
Not only breathing exercises can make you more conscious of your internal or physical state, but they could also help you fight breathing-related stress. In case you suffer from chronic stress, you probably breathe high in the chest. However, this type of breathing could stimulate the stress response.
Specifically, whenever you feel anxious and tense, you breathe more quickly and your heart rate elevates, thus increasing the production of stress hormones and your blood pressure levels.
Chest-oriented, rapid and uncontrolled breathing helps contribute to a state of breathing-related stress.
A professional yoga instructor, Dana Santas, explains how to do these 2 incredible breathing exercises:
– Get rid of tension through breathing. Stress-related breathing can decrease your diaphragm function and contribute to poor posture, thus resulting in migraines, pain, and decreased mobility. Adequate breathing helps alleviate pain, and enhance your posture and diaphragm function.
To do, sit in a chair or lie on the back. Simply relax the shoulders as well as place the hands on the lower part of the ribs. While inhaling, feel the ribs expanding outward, and move the hands further away from each other. While breathing out, squeeze the core muscles to fully empty the lungs. Take a break before the next breath.
– When you sigh in frustration, you should take the cue from the autonomic nervous system to transform those sighs into relief exhales.
To do, breathe in through the nose for a count of five, and breathe out as if you are sighing with relief, out of the mouth, for a count of seven. You should also repeat the same procedure for about one and a half minute.
How to Use Energy Psychology to Lower Stress:
Not only you should do the above mentioned breathing exercises, but you should also practice other stress management techniques in order to reduce stress. For instance, EFT, also referred to as the Emotional Freedom Technique, is an energy psychology technique that helps reprogram the reactions of your body to daily stress, thus lowering your possibility of serious health effects.
This stress management technique is similar to acupuncture. Furthermore, the Emotional Freedom Technique uses tapping the energy pathways in the body by using your fingertips in order to stimulate them. It reprograms the manner your body responds to any emotional stressor.
Moreover, this technique can be practiced alone as well as under the supervision of a licensed therapist.
In the video above, you can see how Julie Schiffman, an EFT practitioner, practices this technique.
Here Are Other Effective Stress Reduction Methods:
There are also other stress reduction methods that can help you reduce your stress very effectively.
First of all, get restorative sleep every night since poor sleep can significantly interfere with the ability of your body to manage stress. Plus, other stress reduction methods include:
- Take time to have fun
- Spend time in nature
- Levity and laughter
- Social connectedness
- Yoga (Practicing yoga on a regular basis has been found to decrease food cravings, enhance sleep patterns, boost immune function, and reduce stress, to name a few.)
- Mindfulness training
- Meditation (Taking about ten minutes to sit quietly, like during work breaks, helps lower your feelings of anxiety and stress.)
- Regular exercise
- Bloomfield, Harold. ”Healing Anxiety Naturally”;
- Carnegie, Dale. ”How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”;