We’ve all been there before. Stressed out with a project at work, school or in our social or home lives. The Oxford dictionary defines psychological stress as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances”. Now with that being said, stress isn’t always bad… In many ways, stress can be a positive and important part of our lives. It can lead to feelings of motivation and a need for challenge in competition or sports, and can increase the drive to seek out our passions. But when it comes down to tasks that don’t need a surge of adrenaline to complete, there are more ways that stress is harming our bodies and minds rather than helping them.
We also know that stress can lead to destructive behaviours or vices as an escape from stressful work, school or social situations. Some of us even turn to alcohol or smoking to calm down while others take a more drastic approach and turn to prescriptions or hard drugs to cope with their stress. The problem with these short-term remedies is that they can gradually turn into dependencies. They can sneak up fast without warning and without them an addict can’t feel normal at all.
If we don’t deal with stress properly, it can be damaging to the health of our bodies. It can result in a decrease in immune response and an increase in self-reported symptoms of certain infectious illnesses. This has been known for almost 30 years and was published in an article called Brain, Behaviour and Immunity published in 1987.
The good news is that you really don’t need a prescription to have a stress free life! Research suggests that all you really need to reduce your stress is enough quality sleep, exercise, and a healthy food.
Sleep disturbance is a type of stress correlated with a reduced activity of natural killer (NK) cells (which is also one of the causes of major depression). A NK cell is a type of white blood cell that is an important part of our body’s rejection of viral-infected cells and tumours. But after a night of deep sleep, NK cell activity returns to baseline levels.
Exercise is another simple was to reduce daily stress. Exercise has been found to increase the activity of T- and B-lymphocytes, natural killer cells and neutrophils to boost the health of our immune systems. Increasing the amount you exercise has also been shown to help increase your brain health and plasticity to increase your cognition and memory!
Improper diet and depression are another type of stress and can both cause inflammation in digestive tract tissue and an increased risk of heart disease. Eating a properly balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and grains can reduce inflammation of cells in your digestive tissue and also your chance of obesity and diabetes by reconstructing the composition of your gut micro-flora.
An extra and more fun approach to reducing stress is to just try to laugh more! Reviews on stress shows that laughter could be an effective self-care tool when trying to cope with stress. Laughter also simply makes life more enjoyable, so it’s a win-win if you can try to reduce stress while having a good time!
Hopefully this article has helped you to think of new ideas to reduce your load of stress, and also helped you understand how important a stress-free life is for your body, cell health, but most importantly your happiness.