Darwin Escapes

The Health Cocktail: Stress

Welcome to a brand new Health Cocktail Darwinites! April is Stress Awareness Month, so in honour of that, let’s talk stress!

Stress is generally your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or perceived threat. It can be a really useful tool that can drive you to take more action, feel more energised and often get you results, it is a biological response controlled by the brain to a challenging stimulation. However, some problems can arise when you start to feel overwhelmed by the thoughts and hormones released, resulting in high pressured stress.


What Causes It?


This is the question most people ask and there isn’t always a simple answer. It’s all a question of the degree of stimulation to your personal perception (there is no one size fits all here…) it can be anything from walking down the street and social interactions to handing in a difficult report on time or getting on a airplane. Anything at all can trigger the flight or fight response in your bio-chemestry. The most common causes are work, relationships and money problems.


What Actually Happens to Me?


So, feelings of stress actually have physical effects on your body, probably more than you realise. When you feel stressed your brain floods your body with stress hormones, called adrenaline and cortisol, which in small doses are good for us, but when we are overwhelmed they can create problems, like headaches, muscle tension, sweating, loss of appetite and dizziness. This is because the hormones released increase blood supply to the brain that can cause tremors and nervous ticks, as well as increasing the heart rate and blood pressure causing hypertension and sometimes chest pains. Stress also effects the muscles with tension and pain, increasing the rate your lungs work meaning breathlessness and coughing take place, along with decreased blood supply to the skin which can cause rashes (or stress hives if you are American), it even effects your bio-chemistry so far as to cause extreme highs and then rapid exhaustion. All this can, understandably, make you very irritable, you can lose sleep and it generally effects how you fundamentally think and behave as a person.


So What Can I Do?


Okay, that was a whole host of information dump on you there and you are probably feeling a little unmotivated, sorry about that! (Once my fitness instructor told our group that the session wasn’t worth a doughnut, worst thing ever, destroyed me. I still went home and had a doughnut.) But don’t worry, there is a doughnut! (See Lou, I’m nice!) There are absolutely loads of things you can do to reduce stress, and there are two websites that will definitely help you, take a look at Mind, the mental health charity’s website, there is a ton of information on there and crisis calls if you are really struggling. There is also a website called Stress, it has a handy questionnaire to tell you how vulnerable you are to stress, and then ways to reduce the stress in your life at the end of it, as well as a good selection of free e-books on coping methods. Being able to understand your triggers and implement coping methods is key to handling stress, avoiding stimulants such as refined sugar, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine, make sure to keep hydrated by drinking lots of water and make the switch to herbal tea. If you are a people pleaser, learn to say no without guilt to help you keep your work load down, also try to create time buffers in your schedule to help with unexpected emergencies.

So if you are struggling with stress, why not start to keep a diary to help spot triggers to develop better coping methods? To help a little more with ways of reducing stress in your life, take a look at the next post, top 10 ways to reduce stress

So you lovely Darwinites, let’s look forward to the next cocktail! And always remember, take a breath, keeping moving forward and always be kind to yourself.