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The subtle ways stress sneaks into our life and piles up, and how to intentionally destress

Mental Health| Wellness
October 19, 20226 min read

Stress is no commodity, and there seems to be plenty of it to go around. How can we begin to have peace in our lives in a world that praises toxic productivity and the constant droning of doing, doing, and doing?

We gotta create it! it might sound a little backwards to have to create peace instead of just having it, but it's the intentionality that really makes peace, stick.


What exactly, is stress?

Stress is more than just an emotion, it is a biological response that engages your entire being (Ted-Ed, 2015). There are times when stress can be helpful, but when we encounter prolonged periods of stress it can elicit the innate fight or flight response within your body. Up to an optimum point, stress is actually healthy, once stress surpasses that point it becomes distress, which is unhealthy and inhibits ways we'd usually function or even think in our daily lives. After a while, you may adapt to the stressful situations you encounter but that doesn't mean your brain and body aren't taking a toll.

How does stress affect your brain and body?

In the long term stress can lead to dis-ease in the body, changing the composition and function of gut bacteria, losing sleep and focus, loss of memory, overthinking, anxiety, depression, aging and death of cells, avoidance of interaction with others and even reduce the size of your brain just to list some of the possible effects.

How stress can sneak into our lives and pile up

No matter the rhyme or reason, stress affects us all. Day to day as we go through our lives, if we are not intentional, little things begin to pile up, and then bigger things on top of them. For example, not getting enough sleep can lead to being a little more cranky in the morning, and how that crankiness could cause you to get a little snippy with someone you might not have wanted to actually be snippy with. As we try to cope with all the tasks and demands of our day and life, stress can leave us in frazzled states. if we're not careful these frazzled states become more and more ingrained in the way we function.


With more intentionality, you might create a nightly ritual to ensure you get ample rest or a morning ritual to intentionally start your day refreshed and energized. Maybe even eat a small breakfast so you're not snappy when you're interacting with others, as both lack of sleep and diet can add to your stress unconsciously.

Over time if we aren’t intentional we can train our minds and there for our bodies, which situations, characteristics in people, places, and demands are threats to our life balance – also known as homeostasis ( in this day in age it’s more so a meter of our learned comfort zone). When we become stressed over long periods of time our bodies exhibit the fight or flight response. Fight or flight is the innate response our body experiences when facing a perceived threat.

How can I relieve stress and create more peace in my life?

Daily check-ins

Daily check-ins allow you to check with yourself and see how you're feeling. Which things are working and which things are not. Where is your happiness coming from? Where is your stress coming from? How does your energy feel today? Where are these feelings coming from? Checking in helps you to be aware of yourself, patterns, emotions and help you to stay off auto-pilot. It’s important to recognize how your lifestyle could be contributing to how stress shows up in your life and how it is managed.

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Give yourself permission to feel

So often in life, we rush past moments when we feel down in order to “keep going” or get things done in our lives. Sometimes it's just because we don't think we're allowed to feel the way we do. By doing this you don't give yourself the space to feel and release your emotions. Instead, they stay trapped in the body and affect how you think and function in your daily life. If you catch these moments early and give yourself permission to feel, it won’t feel like your world is crumbling down later. It’s ok to take a few days to yourself, to show yourself some extra love.

Leisure time activities

Leisure time activities like hobbies and recreation allow you time to rest from the stressful experiences from home or work. In order for leisure time to be effective, it must be something you enjoy, it also allows for joy and connection with others. By creating blocks in your weekly schedule where you spend time with friends, go for a walk or a concert in the park, indulge in a hobby or even read a good book, you’ll create relief to increase motivation to put effort into other things because you experience less burnout. These activities should also be periodic and reoccurring.

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Cultivate a more positive mindset

This is not to be confused with toxic positivity, but rather a way to not take life so personally and point your attention to a positive view over a negative one. A great way to do this is by keeping a gratitude journal. This teaches your brain to look to the positive in life by consistently making yourself aware of the good in life, it'll be much easier to be more motivated and create more proactive coping skills.


Take a break

Give yourself some time where you can just rest and take a break from the constant high-intensity engagements of life. It’ll all be there later, it’s ok to put life down for a sec, while you recoup and come back to self.

Relaxation training

Relaxation training includes practicing activities that elicit relaxation as a response like meditation, cooking, yoga, and breathwork ( like Qi-Gong and Tai-Chi). Really anything that makes you feel relaxed.

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Setting boundaries

Setting boundaries is an often overlooked aspect of creating more peace in your life. It is often looked at as a tool to create better interaction with the people around you, but it is also a tool for interactions with yourself and the world around you. Boundaries are important to have with yourself, habits, patterns, people, and even places that may trigger you or contribute more to your detriment than your peace. As you snip and prune through your life, you’ll see how intentionally

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Work out gear

Physical Exercise

Through exercise and physical activity the “joy chemical” is released, this is a nickname for endorphins – which release a sense of euphoria, similar to what one would feel on a runner's high (that is also the work of endorphins) which helps relieve physical symptoms of stress. Research at the Aerobics Center in Dallas found that aerobically fit people have lower levels of adrenaline in their blood at rest; have a slower, stronger heartbeat and recover from stressful events quicker (Nelson, et el., 2017). Getting active doesn't always have to mean getting in the gym either.







What are some ways you like to destress?


References

Nelson, Debra L. and James Campbell Quick. “Chapter 7: Stress and Well-Being at Work . ORGB 5” Boston: Cengage Learning 2017. Print.

TED-Ed. (2015). How stress affects your body - Sharon Horesh Bergquist. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-t1Z5-oPtU

Samira Davis

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