STRESS- YOUR ALLY OR FOE?- IS DETERMINED BY YOU!

“IT’S NOT THE LOAD THAT BREAKS YOU DOWN,IT’S THE WAY YOU CARRY IT”-LOU HALTZ

Have you ever wondered how stress could work both as an agonist and as an antagonist? Stress could be your – ally or foe. It depends on your – lifestyle, attitude, mindset, choices, robustness, perception, management of psychic abilities and art of handling emotions. Either you handle your stress or your stress will handle you!

Stress has always an important role in our survival.Stress is not a disease that we should be afraid of. We are evolved out of stress. It’s our reaction to external pressure and a condition we experience in our daily life tensions. It is simply the body’s response to the changes that create taxing demands.

We often use the term “Stress” to describe negative situations, this leads to believe people that all stress is bad. It’s not true. Stress is good in short-term and harmful in long term. We need some amount of stress to grow and thrive! Stress is everywhere. You may notice stress while dealing with your kids, boss, office colleagues, spouse, managing your finances….. And while some stress is ok, too much stress can wear you down and make you sick mentally, physically and spiritually.

The first step to control stress is to realize that you are stressed. We become habituated of being in stress and don’t realize until the boiling point!

What is stress?

Stress is body reaction to harmful situations-whether they are real or perceived. When you feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in your body that allows you to act in a way to prevent danger. This reaction is known as “fight-or-flight,” or the stress response. During stress response, your heart rate increases, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises. You’ve gotten ready to act. It is how you protect yourself.

GOOD STRESS AND BAD STRESS:

Good stress is known as –EUSTRESS, whereas bad stress, is known as – DISTRESS. One more type of stress is – OXIDATIVE STRESS.
Eu-stress-The term was coined by endocrinologist Hans Selye, consisting of the Greek prefix EU- meaning “good/healthy”, and stress, literally meaning “good stress”.Eustress means beneficial or adaptive stress – either physiological, psychological, spiritual or emotional-having a good effect on your health, motivation, performance and emotional well being. Stress is healthful and the stimulus for growth. During positive stress, a feel-good hormone – ENDORPHINS (endogenous morphine- body’s self-produced painkillers), are released.
Distress– on the other hand, Distress is negative, harmful stimuli that make you weaker, less able, anxious, panic and less confident and in extreme result in depression. It occurs when something is difficult for an individual to cope with. Distress causes tension to build in body and mind and the situations seem daunting. Distress leads to poor decisions making skills. Physiological symptoms include -High blood pressure, heart problem, Type 2 diabetes, Thyroid problem, Headaches. Behavioural symptoms include- emotional eating, smoking, drinking, and avoiding the task at hand, negative coping skills.
Oxidative stress – Environmental factors and unhealthy lifestyle choices influence oxidative stress in humans. An elevated oxidative stress is a contributing factor to many chronic diseases such as coronary artery disease, an autoimmune disorder, cancer, diabetes, thyroid problem and the list goes on. It is a state of your body in which excess of free radicals is present. A free radical, is a molecule in an unstable state, with a missing electron. To gain the stability it takes an electron from a nearby molecule. It can happen in any part of the cellular structure. Now the second molecule is unstable and in turn, it needs to gain its stability by taking an electron from another molecule. Now, a dominal effect of electron stealing begins! This process leads to the cellular destructions. Free radicals are the by-product of the metabolic process. The problem comes from the excess of free radicals produced which leads to oxidative stress.

Stressors that cause common stress:

  • Too fast change of our environment that our genes can’t adopt.
  • Unemployment
  • Educational stress on students.
  • Workplace-Having too much responsibility and heavy workload, long working hours.
  • The death of loved ones
  • Divorce
  • Traumatic events
  • Toxic environment
  • Toxic relationship
  • Conflict with co-workers and family members
  • Financial problems
  • Fears

Factors that cause oxidative/chronic stress:

  • Poor dietary habits and lifestyle.
  • Eating refined carb, sugar and fried foods
  • Dairy products and poultry
  • Imbalance of omega -3 and omega- 6
  • Carbonated water
  • Drinking and smoking
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Air pollutants
  • Insecticides and pesticides
  • Stress-emotional and physical
  • Excessive exercise
  • Some medications
  • Radiations/UV light

Today’s irony is that when no tiger is chasing us then also we are most of the time in – fight and flight mode, even in our sleep. We are stuck on sympathetic dominance. A proper balance of sympathetic and parasympathetic is the key to the good health!

The sympathetic nervous system is related to activities that require your mental or physical alertness such as work and exercise. The parasympathetic is related to more relaxing activities such as sleeping, eating, meditation, nature walks, Listening music etc.

We never have only one system working because both are necessary in order for the body to function.
Sympathetic is – fight and flight mode that prepares our bodies for action.
Parasympathetic is-rest and digest mode that produces a state of equilibrium in the body.

Fight and flight mode are not good for your health in long duration. It releases stress hormone- “Cortisol “which is a toll on your body. Cortisol produces free radicals which result in oxidative stress. Overproduction of free radicals can cause oxidative damage to biomolecules, (lipids, proteins, DNA), eventually leading to many chronic diseases such as atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetics, rheumatoid arthritis, post-ischemic perfusion injury, myocardial infarction, cardiovascular diseases, chronic inflammation, stroke …

Common effects of stress:

Indeed stress can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings and your behaviour.Being able to recognize common stress symptoms can give you jump on managing them. Stress that’s left unchecked can contribute to many chronic health problems. Common effects of stress-

  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Change in sex drive
  • Anxiety, anger, depression and restlessness
  • Overeating or under-eating
  • Social withdrawal
  • Exercising less often

Effect of chronic stress/oxidative stress on your body:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Diabetic
  • Cardiovascular problem
  • Thyroid problem
  • Autoimmune disorder
  • Obesity
  • Trigger depression
  • Gastrointestinal problem
  • Ruins your sleep
  • Wreak havoc on your hormones.
  • Asthma
  • Neurodegenerative diseases such as –Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
  • Cancer
  • Fast ageing

Stress detoxification pathway:

When you get stressed, you get physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted. Nobody wants too much stress in their life. Don’t let it dominate or overpower you. Let stress work as an agonist, not as an antagonist. Unlock your potential to handle your stress skillfully, otherwise, it will fill you with negative energies and promote a sense of failure, which can be devastating!

However, there are plenty of things successful people can do to counter a burnout and keep moving forward in life.

Act to manage common stress:

  • Regular physical activity and work out. Exercises are to stimulate you and keep you active throughout the day. It boosts your happiness level and strengthens your immune system.
  • Relaxation technique, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, getting a massage, listening music, meditative walk/forest bathing, gardening etc.
  • Learn to Relax, Breathe and Take it easy. Simplify your life by doing less rather than more.Problem is that we are trying to do more and more things in less and less time and pay price in term of quality. Focus on quality of work rather than quantity.
  • Get involve in creativity
  • Set aside time for hobbies.
  • Socialize with family and friends.
  • Keep a sense of humour.
  • Make sleep a top priority.
  • Say” NO “more often. It will help you to focus on the most important project that matters to you.
  • Unplug yourself from the technology. Decide a specific time to check your messages/emails. Don’t keep your gadgets all the time with you. Kill your darlings. Though technology has made our lives easier in a lot of ways, it can also increase the amount of stress people feel on a daily basis. Constantly checking your messages causes your brain to be overstimulated, leaving you hypoxic.Keep few hrs wifi free zone, it will increase your creativity and productivity! Utilize that time with your family, friends, in fulfilment of your dream project, self-healing, hobbies etc.
  • Get in touch with your feelings and take time to listen to your body and emotions.
  • Take responsibility for yourself.
  • Adjust your attitude. Don’t fall into the trap of negative emotions that can quickly get out of control and only make us feel worse. Stress is a part of our life which cannot be avoided, but we can change our mindset! Instead of focusing on the negative, try to focus on the positives.
  • Aim to find active ways to manage your stress. Inactive ways may use to manage stress-such as watching television, surfing the internet or playing video games, may seem relaxing, but they may increase your stress over the long period of time.

Act to manage oxidative/chronic stress:

  • Eat nutrient dense food
  • Reduce acid load of your body by -Rainbow eating/Alkaline diet. Make sure your plate is enriched with colourful fruits, vegetables, nuts and real food.
  • NO to dairy products and poultry.
  • NO to the refined carb, sugar and carbonated water.
  • A proper balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acid.
  • Avoid alcohol intake, tobacco use, smoking, excess caffeine and the use of illicit substances
  • Get rid of unhealthy life choices
  • Boost your daily dietary intake of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory food, phyto-nutrient, fibre, herbs and spices. Antioxidant such as-Turmeric,nuts,vitamin C,green tea,garlic,onion,cinnamon etc.
  • Be on at least 10,000 step diet daily
  • Do Metabolic relaxation day(Intermittent fasting) at least once a week. Better to do twice a week or every alternative day for fast healing from oxidative /chronic stress. You can design your own metabolic relaxation day according to your personal wellness goal. Make sure your feasting days are nutrient dense rather than calorie rich.
  • Fluid balance.
  • Wash your fruits and vegetables with hydrogen peroxide to get rid of insecticides and pesticides.
  • Avoid over-eating.
  • Listen to your body.Avoid excessive strenuous exercise.Give your body time to heal. Go for an intermittent burst of moderate to the high-level intensity with intervening periods of rest and recovery. High-intensity interval training sessions should be performed once or twice per week.Do different types of exercises to enhance your organic fitness and to avoid boredom, overuse injury, emotional burnout and high level of oxidative stress.
  • Get at least 7-8 hours sleep daily.

“YOU CANNOT GO BACK AND START THE BEGINNING,BUT YOU CAN START WHERE YOU ARE AND CHANGE THE ENDING!”-C.S .LEWIS

For further exploration of this fascinating topic, I encourage you to click on the below link –

Kelly McGonigal: How to turn Stress into an advantage

Author: Gunjan Mishra

Holistic Health Educator,NLP and CBT Practioner, A Certified nutritionist from Stanford University(US), Diploma in health and fitness from Shaw Academy(UK), Advanced Diploma in Principles of Nutrition(UK), Personal Trainer (GFFI Academy, India), Advanced Diploma in Ultimate body Transformation(UK), Co-founder of Cosmic wellness centre.

14 thoughts on “STRESS- YOUR ALLY OR FOE?- IS DETERMINED BY YOU!”

  1. Hi Gunjan,
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog. It is beautifully structured and backed up scientifically. I think a lot of our stress comes from our perceived threat than a real threat. The capability of imagining our futures and reflecting on our past is one of the marvellous evolutionary skills: thanks to our Prefrontal Cortex- the CEO of the brain. However, now we don’t live in the African Savanah anymore and we are not chased by the sabre tooth beasts either. We still find millions of reasons to think as if we were being chased- my boss does not like, I am not attractive, rich or confident blah blah blah. A man lay in bed could be more stressed dreading his imagination and drenching in cortisol; not willing to go out and face the world than a mountain climber out in the open facing his challenges and overcoming his insecurities and gathering mastery experiences.
    As you have highlighted, this chronic stress of feeling guilty about our past and anxious about our futures is the grandmother of all mental disorders and stress responses of the 21st century. We vividly remember what all we have missed in life and keep replaying when are not GROUNDED!! Guess what?! We then miss our present and create a bit more to be guilty about in the future. As if this wasn’t enough, we plan, prepare, project and try to possess our future well before it becomes present and then we miss the present as well. So what suffers is our PRESENT- the evolutionary irony of the seemingly most intelligent species Homo sapiens! No wonder, the US is facing the rising incidence of suicide, drug and alcohol-related deaths. The other countries are either following but failing to acknowledge or already facing but are fearful to address because of the lack of political will. We seem to be focussing less on the present moment and either regretting the past or planning the future. The rest of our animal kingdom has less capacity to do so.
    You might ask what is the solution? My response would be to learn from animals!! Follow GRACE (Rish’s Principle)
    G- GROUNDING.
    Grounding is an action when you are closest to your primitive self- the Hunter Gatherer style. If you just think and feel then that is not grounding. When you are grounded you make love affair with your present- accept, cherish, alter, act or just contemplate what is one thing you can do to make this present a good past tomorrow. Do something which engages you so much that brooding about the past and dreading the future becomes difficult- eg weightlifting, nature walks, sprinting, balancing on a tightrope and then make your own! If you lazy like me then slow everything down ie look at your meal, cherish the vibrant rainbow colours, smell the aroma, touch and feel it and savour it bit by bit so you engage the PARASYMPATHETIC SYSTEM- THE DIGEST AND REST SYSTEM.
    Walking barefoot with intention, attention and awareness (mindfully) is also a type of grounding.
    Gratefulness- write five simple things you are grateful for every day eg- woke up alive, safe water, shelter, food, job, etc.
    R- RESOURCEFULNESS & RESPONSIVENESS
    Explore every day what one thing you can do which you never did ever in your life regardless how silly, simple or insane it is- writing/ drawing/brushing/eating/ opening door with your non-dominant hand. Making a phone call to someone you hate and making a deliberate mistake to see what happens or asking for a favour to get a no etc. These activities make us believe that we can do more than what we believe- Micromastery Experiences. Be responsive, not reactive ie when something happens then make it your own action than just reacting the expected way. Your responses could be- no response, cool acceptance, delayed response or even telling yourself that it is my decision to let this action pass for my sanity. By doing these activities you will improve your healthy neurotransmitters and create new neurons which will help in combating stress.
    A- ACCEPTANCE
    In the US if you are born blind you don’t kick a fuss but if you get a bruise while at work you sue the company and get millions!
    Why? Because if you are born blind you accept and you don’t fight ie you shut the stress system before it kicks in. Acceptance is not the same as denying, numbing, ignoring and hiding. Acceptance is making a house on a houseboat and accepting that is never going to be as stable as it would have been if it was built on the bedrock. Acceptance is never passive but always an active choice for liberation, inner peace and progress. Acceptance keeps your sympathetic system tamed.
    C- CREATION & COMPASSION
    Our life’s stresses come from an insatiable quest for consumption, competition and control. I agree that all these are crucial to success and progress but they take toll on our health if we don’t balance these with creation and compassion. Imagine leaving your car in the neutral gear all the time so that you can feel warm, stay reassured that it is functioning (empty productivity) and consuming fuel to prove that it is a car. Create a dish, write a poem/ letter/ joke/ plan/ dream/ confession/ compliment/thought and then share with someone or post it to your own address from a holiday destination and see what it does to your curiosity and autonomic nervous system. Compassion starts with self-compassion first. Looking after your body, mind and sanity is not selfishness but is a type of biopsychological investment in my opinion. It keeps your stresses balanced. When you get a blend of cortisol with adrenaline/ dopamine/ oxytocin/ serotonin it is wholesome: as opposed to getting the chronic high dose of cortisol only (can lead to adrenal fatigue).
    E- EXPRESS
    Finally, CARE ABOUT EXPRESSION NOT IMPRESSION AND IT WILL TAKE CARE OF YOU.
    Express your imagination, express your creativity, express your doubts and express your courage. You never know who gets inspired, influenced or impressed. A seed expresses its potential otherwise it becomes a grain, a baby expresses its curiosity to explore its surroundings and becomes a toddler in the same way a social animal becomes a human by expressing all its potentials.
    Enough of preaching, I will shut up now!
    Rish Sharma
    Barnstaple, UK

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you, Rish Sir, for your articulate thoughts! It’s an honour to have your reflection on my blog. Becoz of your inspiration, motivation and strong belief in me, I mustered all my courage to express myself in writing. You gave me the incredible mission of wellness and goodness propagation when I was pressed and pulled on every side. Wholeheartedly, I am grateful for your guidance, love, support and precious time you invested in me and uplifted me when I was under cloud. With my best intention, I am trying to share what I have learned from you in these few yrs.
      Would be seeking your blessings, guidance and mentorship in future too!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing such informative writing in simple and short way. The introductory and concluding quotes give us a new vision to evaluate the STRESS. Thanks again and waiting for more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Prabhu,
      Thanks for your valuable comment. I would suggest you to read Rish Sharma’s remarkable comment on my blog. Hope you get some better insight learning.
      Stay curious!

      Like

  3. HII. This is really burning issue of our society and it’s being very well addressed by you . Believe that everyone suffer once atleast in his or life journey and will be beneficial for us to overcome/Move on. Indeed superb 👍🏾

    Liked by 2 people

  4. First and foremost a heartiest congratulations to you for starting up this blog, sharing your know-how and educating us on these health topics. These topics are very relevant to modern world health issues.
    Sometimes I wonder with so many advanced technologies available to us now why is that our life is not getting easy. As the internet is advancing, mobile phones are getting better and almost every other requirement can be fullfills online, why is that we are still struggling with long hours of work, lack of sleep, fatigue, distress etc.
    While reading our explanation I came across a single most important aspect which at least suits me “Say No.. More often”.
    This is something we don’t take in a positive way. How can you say no to boss request, to family invitations, to friends gathering, to work hard… As we want to fullfills all the requirements to get our self stressed out.
    Thanks Gunjan for enlightening us on this topic. Here is my take away ” know your limits and say No often “

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Swarup for your reflective comment. I am grateful, you read and received something for the takeaway. I was the most people pleasing personality few yrs ago and was always trying to be nice to others at the expense of myself. Despite all my hard efforts, I found myself inefficacious to make my loved ones happy and was overwhelmed by stress with time.Then I embrace -“NO”, the most powerful action! I learned to say NO to both people and taxing tasks/activities that take away my precious time, energy and attention and invested that time, energy and attention in my overall health and purpose of my life, without any guilt. It hard to say -NO, it takes practice and time. What I realise with time that it is an essential tool for your health and well-being. Authentic NO stems from your resourcefulness, humility, respect for yourself, courage and confidence. It is a loving-kindness meditation towards yourself. Sometimes it is important to create healthy boundaries and stand your ground. Don’t let others, make you feel guilty with their ideas of shoulda, coulda, woulda. No one else is living your life, don’t let them should on you! I had FOMO(fear of missing out) when I was practising NO but I was proved wrong with time. If you say NO authentically in your self -care and self – respect, people likes, love and respect you more. Being unable to say NO can make you exhausted, stressed and irritatable, as I was few yrs ago. Your NO should be polite and honest! Discover and empower yourself with the powerful sentence- “NO” You deserve the time for yourself! Only saying NO is not enough for your personal growth, you should also practice listening NO more often, gracefully. I Love Albert Einstein’s quote- “I am thankful for all of those who said NO to me, it’s because of them I am doing it myself”
      Bless yourself
      Regards

      Liked by 2 people

  5. ‘NO’ the most powerful word to be said at times and to have the power to listen at times helps a person to take right decision for growth and distressed living. Gunjan every time I read your blog I discover a new way to be included in the journey of my life. Even I have started overcoming FOMO.

    Liked by 1 person

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