We all deal with stress. These days, most have a lot more stress than normal. Recent studies estimate that between seventy five and ninety percent of all doctor’s visits are related to stress related illnesses. Common health problems that have been linked to elevated stress levels include: heart disease, asthma, obesity and diabetes. But where does stress come from? There are three different types of stress, and they all affect our bodies in different ways.
The first type of stress is physical stress. This is the kind of stress that causes aches and pains. It can be the result of trauma, like a car accident or fall, or, more commonly, repetitive stress on the body. Think of all of the things that we do on a regular basis, like sitting in front of the computer with poor posture or lifting without the proper technique. Over time, these repetitive activities cause stress on our bodies and can lead to pain. Examples of health problems caused by physical stresses include headaches, neck and lower back pain, and decreased energy.
The easiest way to limit your physical stress is to alter the repetitive activities in your life. For most people this means correcting their workstation so that it is ergonomically correct. Workstations that are not ergonomically correct are a major cause of neck pain and headaches. Sleeping in the wrong position is another cause of physical stress that most people don’t think about. For tips on how to correct your ergonomics and proper sleeping positions, read this blog post.
Stress not only affects our bodies, but our minds as well. When we are overworked, have a lack of work, face major life changes, or deal with a situation that we can’t control, emotional stress rises. Does any of that sound familiar to our current situation? Emotional stress can manifest in depression, anxiety, frustration , irritability and mood swings.
Emotional stress can be dealt with in a number of ways. Regular exercise has been proven to decrease stress levels and can help combat depression. Meditation is another great way to reduce emotional stress. There are a number of meditation techniques that can help clear your mind and keep you from focusing on stressors. Finally, don’t forget to talk with someone about how you feel. Just verbalizing your feelings to someone else can help relieve stress and keep you from bottling everything up. In some cases, it may be necessary to speak with a professional therapist, but you might be surprised that even telling a friend or loved one how you feel can help relieve stress.
The type of stress people often forget about is chemical stress. Everything that we put in our bodies, either directly or indirectly, produces a chemical change in our bodies. This chemical change affects how the body functions, altering stress levels. The food we eat, air we breathe, medication and supplements that we take can all cause chemical stress.
The easiest way to lower chemical stress levels is through a healthy diet. A poor diet can not only cause stress, but can make other forms of stress worse. In general, try to avoid sugar, refined grains (white bread and rice) and processed foods. All of these can increase inflammation levels in the body, leading to stress. Instead, eat whole grains like quinoa, brown rice and whole wheat bread. A good rule of thumb when shopping is to stick to the outside of the grocery store, the produce, meat and dairy sections, and avoid anything that is in a bag or box, since these are likely processed foods.
I hope this post has given you insight on the different types of stress, how they affect the body and given you a few tips on how to decrease your stress levels. If you would like to read about ways to decrease stress during quarantine, check out our earlier post.