Stress Affects Everything

 

Are you stressed? Well, if you’re not, I daresay you are in limited company! These days, most Americans probably accept/tolerate/expect a certain level of stress given all the balls we juggle on a day to day basis; and consequently, we may forget how stress can wreak havoc on our physical and mental health. We mustn’t ever forget how important self-care is not only as a curative measure, but as a preventative practice. Luckily, April is Stress Awareness Month, so it gives us a great platform to discuss how this intangible feeling can manifest in real ways on the scale, on our glucose and blood pressure meters, performance levels, and more. 

The American Diabetes Association words it best: stress causes your body to behave as if it were under attack. This fight-or-flight response is a great asset in situations of real danger, but for a diabetic, for example, it can mean unwanted spikes in blood sugar. For someone with hypertension, this can mean elevated blood pressure with the need for more and more medication. Now that’s a double whammy: not only do your energy and concentration levels suffer as a result of these constant highs, your pocketbook/wallets do too. 

To make matters worse, this response is meant for short-term threats, but most of the stressors we deal with tend to linger on for days, weeks, months, and even years. Long-term hyperglycemia and hypertension can do real damage over the years; physically, think worsening kidney function and cardiac failure; mentally, think impaired cognitive performance which can affect your performance at work and attendance. Those daily stressors that we tend to keep as pets don’t seem so harmless now do they? They cost us in very real ways. 

But high-blood sugar and -blood pressure can wreak havoc for years without us really ever noticing, or taking seriously once we do. What does tend to get our attention is when our clothes fit too tight, the number on the scale keeps climbing without fail, and/or when we see a picture of ourselves that isn’t the most flattering. So then we pool all our efforts into tackling a weight problem; but after a few days, weeks, or months of trying we’re right back where we started- but why? Well, simply put, stress gets in the way. Unbridled stressors sit pretty for long periods of time at the top of our to-do lists. They tell us we don’t have the time to make it to the gym. They get so unmanageable that our only escape is in the bottom of a chip/cookie bag, or bottle. They cause chaos to our hormones, which can make weight loss seriously challenging despite the best of efforts. They can debilitate us, and make our goals seems so far gone that we’ll only ever talk about achieving them. 

So, this month, do your best to come up with a specific action plan on how to reduce the stressors in your life. Enlist the help of friends, family, and behavioral health specialists alike! The more support the better! Some may take small tweaks, others significant life changes. Be open to change. Reducing stress is worth your time and effort, because it’s an investment in every area of your life. And, it’s not a one-and-done process. Find ways to keep your well-being at the center of everything you do, and good health will follow!