Stress has an incredible impact on health yet often gets less attention than it deserves. While triggering the body’s stress response is necessary in certain situations, giving into it and losing your cool whenever anything goes wrong has negative implications on a multiple aspects of health.
But with some preventive maintenance, you can avoid falling into the trap every time you find the tooth paste cap off or yourself stuck in the left lane behind a car going 30 in a 65…
Even with lots of pre-planning and bullet-proofing, “shit happens”, as they say–sometime serious, sometimes not so much. The good news is that for the serious situations our bodies have developed an adaptive, autonomic, “fight or flight” response that powers us up to respond. Designed to be used for running from a saber tooth tiger or similar life or death situations.
That response starts with an emotional gut reaction that kicks in as soon as our radar perceives something’s up, while logic is scrambling to catch up. A slew of hormones are released, blood sugar rises, heart and breathing rate increase–we’re ready for action and that can be a good thing when needed.
Trouble is, that gut reaction can also be triggered by the little stuff that’s mostly just irritating. And if we simply give into every time it does before logic kicks in, the physiological reaction is the same. Triggered too often it can lead to to abdominal weight gain, a depressed immune system and diminished thyroid function to name just a few.
With busy lives, most of us fall into that pattern at least once in a while–and for some it’s a conditioned response to every little thing that goes off plan. While controlling that that initial emotional surge can be challenging, it’s well worth the investment for the sake of your health. And of course, losing your cool just isn’t cool.
Here are 5 action steps to help manage the reaction from multiple angles:
- Neutralize the Triggers. Helicopter up and identify the situations where you’re prone to reacting more than necessary. Is it a specific situation at work? A particular individual? Can something be changed or modified in the situation? If not, is it time to move on?
- Manage Your Response. Once such a situation begins erupting, immediately slow down and give logic time to catch up. Take no action, including (especially) speaking, e-mailing or other communications. Think it through and let logic have a say in the matter. Changing your response can also dampen the triggers.
- Breathe. Yes, may sound cliche and corny but check it out–it works. Take 3-5 or more really deep breaths for 4 seconds then exhale more slowly for 7 seconds. If you know a stress triggering situation is coming, use this as a preventative measure. Helps every time.
- Burn Off That Edge. Make sure you’re getting enough activity, exercise and play time to burn off excess energy that might otherwise ferment into anxiety. Everything looks different after 30 minutes of brisk cardio.
- Raise Your Baseline Chill Levels. Check out and consider some mindfulness practice such as meditation, gratitude and visualization. Shifting to a more positive train of thought cascades into every other aspect of life, including our stress reaction.