In a continuously evolving and advancing society, in which everything seems to revolve around success, money and speed, stress is one of the risks of everyday life.
The word “stress” has entered our common vocabulary; we’ve all used it at least once in our lives to describe a difficult, tense, worrying or anxious situation.
We continuously face stressful situations on an everyday basis, relating to our jobs, our families or our relationships. We never seem to have enough time for what we need to do, we have deadlines to meet, bills to pay, children to look after, and so it goes on. And the result? We forget to look after ourselves and can fall into a state of anxiety and stress, often with negative and dangerous consequences.
Stress can often lead to loss of memory and concentration, muscle tension, insomnia, excessive weight gain or loss, nervousness, overtiredness during the day, apathy and premature ageing.
Many of us tend to turn a blind eye to these problems, telling ourselves that “it’s just a phase and it will pass” or “I’m just a bit stressed, that’s all”. Of course, if you want to hide everything under the carpet and pretend that “it’s just a difficult time” or that “things are hard and that’s just how life is” you can do so, but it’s certainly not the best attitude and is neither useful nor constructive.
What is stress? what can we do about it?
In medicine, stress is any factor (physical, chemical, psychological, etc.) capable of exerting on the body, with its prolonged action, a stimulus that leads to a reaction. These reactions are mediated by the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and by the adrenal glands. Glucocorticoids, the main one being cortisol, or the stress hormone, are produced by the adrenal cortex.
They promote the use of fat, protein catabolism, and therefore the destruction of muscle mass; they increase glucose emission from the liver into the bloodstream, suppress the release and activity of the growth hormone and perform an immunosuppressive action, reducing the effectiveness of the immune system.
Here are some simple rules for preventing, reducing and combating stress
Look after yourself and listen to your body
Your body is always sending you signals to tell you what you need. If you’re hungry, have a snack, don’t resist in spite of yourself; if you’re tired, have a rest; if you feel like letting off steam, call a friend; if you want to relax, go for a walk. In other words, try to do what your body tells you to. You’ll soon realise that at the end of the day you’ll be less fatigued and nervous.
Try to take regular physical exercise
Physical activity plays an essential role in dealing with psychological stress, reducing anxiety and the symptoms of mild depression, and therefore helps you to withstand physical stress.
There are countless options to suit your needs. If you are tense, it’s also a good idea to perform a low-intensity activity, such as cycling or walking. These activities, performed for 30 minutes a day on a regular basis, help you to relax and lower your overall stress levels. You can, for example, use some innovative cardio equipment such as the Cross Personal.
Activities with a higher level of intensity, on the other hand, are perfect for combating feelings of anger, frustration and powerlessness. They also help to improve your self-esteem and self-concept and you learn how to set objectives and achieve them. There will also be an increase in your levels of noradrenaline, the hormone produced by the adrenal medulla, associated with combating depression. While exercising, your plasma levels of noradrenaline increase and this helps to relieve the symptoms of depression.
Training in a group, either in the gym or outdoors, is also an excellent way of sharing positive experiences, achieving results together, letting off steam and simply enjoying some time in the company of others.
Sport increases the levels of endorphins in the brain. These chemicals, like morphine, have a narcotic effect which induces feelings of pleasure and wellbeing.
Practice meditation and breathing techniques
Finally, for the best results, combine your physical activity with meditation or autogenic training techniques, where you concentrate on yourself through deep analysis of your body, passively analysing how you feel (e.g. heavy limbs, heat, breathing, regulating your heartbeat, etc.).
It’s good to remember the saying “a sound mind is a sound body”, and that the two are strongly interlinked. You should therefore try to look after them both for a happy and active life.