Stress. What do people mean when they say “I am stressed?” What even is stress? To me I’ve always felt that stress is the pressure you feel when you have too much work to do in too little time.
The dictionary defines stress in three different ways:
- Importance attached to a thing
- A force producing a strain
- A specific response by the body to a stimulus
I am currently enrolled at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition where I am working towards a Registered Holistic Nutritionist designation, and in our very first class we talked about stress. Turns out that we can certainly experience mental stress such as work overload, but there are also other types of stress we experience daily without even knowing it!
TYPES OF STRESS
Types of mental stress can definitely include things like brain overload from studying for an exam, or trying to meet a work deadline. However, mental stress can also tie in with emotional stress, say if you are in a relationship and things aren’t as happy as they should be, or if you are holding on to anger or hurt from a past event. Even road rage can be considered a type of emotional stress! All of these types of negative feelings cause stress on our body.
Reducing Mental/Emotional Stress:
- Focus on the POSITIVE. If you find yourself being negative in any way, question why, ask yourself if it is really worth the stress, and try and turn it around into something positive.
- If something isn’t making you happy in life, change it!
Finding ourselves a few minutes every day where we can let go of the day’s stresses and move on to a better, more positive tomorrow can do wonders for our mental and emotional stress.
Unfortunately, environmental stress is largely out of our control. It can also present itself in many different forms. There are cataclysmic events, such as floods, fire, or earthquakes. There are major life changes that impact our environment, such as having a baby, getting divorced, starting university or losing a job. Then there are environmental stressors we experience daily, such as working our noisy factory job, a tense environment between coworkers or enduring congested rush hour traffic on the way home. Finally, there are ambient environmental stressors, which are the things we can’t see but know are there, such as air pollution.
Reducing environmental stress:
- Be wary of your footprint on the Earth (e.g. reduce, reuse, recycle, don’t litter, conserve water, etc.)
- Be wary of where you live (i.e. away from power lines and industrial plants, in the city vs. the country, etc.)
- Be conscious of the environment(s) in which you spend your time (e.g. working in a noisy, dusty factory, working a high-stress office job for a high-end corporation, spending time around cigarette smokers, etc.)
Have you ever considered the food you eat to be a stressor? Neither have I, but thinking about it now, it makes so much sense! For example, a Big Mac and fries are high in fat and sodium, which can negatively affect our arteries. Consistent stress like this over time can lead to reduced blood flow and ultimately things like heart disease! For my body, gluten and dairy are stressors. So the two banana splits and cake I chose to indulge in this summer? They stressed my body out by causing it to work extra hard to get rid of the “toxins” I ingested. Crazy train of thought right?! So now that we know the wrong types of food can be stressful to our body, why do we choose to eat the unhealthy things we do?? Hmm….
Reducing nutritional stress:
- Avoid unhealthy foods! (high-fat, high-sodium, high-sugar, deep-fried, alcohol, soda, etc.)
I think the most common example of physical stress is that of sitting in an office chair all day at work. The body wasn’t made to sit all day; especially not slouched over a desk and/or computer. Things like carrying a purse on your shoulder or a child on your hip are also considered physical stress. The weight of the child and purse pull the body to one side, which causes an imbalance of the body’s physical position, straining our muscles. The heavy bag of groceries I carried on my bag last week was a definite form of stress to my body. Even getting fewer hours sleep than recommended is considered physical stress!
Exercise is also considered physical stress on the body, but is a good form of stress.
Reducing physical stress:
- Sleep at least 7-8 hours every night for optimal functioning
- Avoid carrying heavy loads
- Alternate arms/shoulders/hips when repeatedly carrying things, like children or purses
- Practice good posture at all times
- Regular exercise helps to maintain weight, combat disease and provides the body with energy. Exercise can also help reduce other forms of stress, like emotional and mental stress. Win-win-win!
This is probably one of the biggest stressors we face in our society today, and goes hand-in-hand with environmental stress. Electromagnetic stress refers to all the electronic particles that are buzzing around in the air from satellites, keeping us constantly connected to things like phones, internet and TV all at the push of a button. Cellphones are by far the worst, with the majority of the population connected to their phone 24/7. Most keep it on their person at all times, many even at night when they are sleeping. Think about all the electromagnetic stress that is causing on our bodies – yikes!
Reducing electromagnetic stress:
- Unplug your wireless internet when you’re not using it. It doesn’t need to constantly be sending particles into the air to interfere with our body’s well-being.
- Turn off your phone at night. You’re sleeping, you don’t need it! If you use it as an alarm, fork over a couple bucks for an alarm clock. If you can afford a cellphone, you can afford a clock. (Except on exam days…then set every single alarm you own so you don’t sleep in!) If you absolutely need to keep your phone on at night, simply turn the sound to “silent,” so you don’t hear every single notification that comes in. If you have an iPhone, Apple so conveniently created the “Do Not Disturb” setting so you can still set things like your alarm, but not be bothered by a new text message or phone call from just anyone while you’re sleeping. Not only does this behaviour cause electromagnetic stress, it also causes physical stress by interrupting our sleep every time we get a notification!
- Disconnect yourself from technology whenever possible. It is not contributing positively to your health. Get out and live life in person, not through a camera, phone or TV screen!
WOW! Are you stressed about being stressed now? I have always considered myself a fairly low-stress person, but based on the above list, I am actually really stressed!
Unfortunately, every single one of us experiences each of these forms of stress daily. This overload of stress is called the “rain barrel” effect. Each additional stress we experience gets added into our barrel until eventually, it overflows. It is at this point that our body is stressed to the max, leaving it vulnerable to things like illness or chronic disease. By reducing our stress, we can empty our rain barrels so to speak, and improve our health, happiness and quality of life.
I’ve always considered the main things that determine our health to be diet and exercise, but now I know that there are other important considerations too, like stress.
Based on the types of stress listed above, are you stressed?