STRESS AWARENESS BY RITA HARTLEY
It’s April. Which means spring! And Stress Awareness Month. And zero temperatures? Ugh. Something to stress about?
Here’s a revelation from an expert worrier: there’s ALWAYS something to stress about.
But like most things in life, it’s a matter of recognizing – and accepting – what we have control over. And a certain amount of stress is a good thing, right? It spurs action. We get things done. Chronic stress? According to Stats Can, “In 2014, 23.0% of Canadians aged 15 and older (6.7 million people) reported most days were ‘quite a bit’ or ‘extremely stressful’.” That’s almost a quarter of the population spending most days stressed out.
Some negative results of chronic stress: insomnia, fluctuating hormones, skin and heart problems, immune and digestive system issues, depression. In short? Too much stress makes you old before your time. The best way to stop that from happening? According to draxe.com: “control and reduce stress”.
So, how exactly do we “control and reduce stress”? Well breathe easy cause you’re doing it! Every single time you show up to a Jazzercise class, either with a smile on your face, or quickly manifesting one because of all the fun you’re having, you’re managing stress. Exercise is top of the list and here’s why. Says carleton.ca Healthy Workplace: “Physical activity increases your body’s ability to manage stress by improving your flexibility and physicality, and balancing hormones linked to stress – adrenaline, cortisol, and endorphins.”
Our “fight-or-flight” response to stress was built into our bodies thousands of years ago to prepare us to flee the lion in the African wilderness. The HPA-axis (a complicated set of relationships and signals between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenals), gets activated, causing the quick release of cortisol and adrenaline into the body. These hormones make the lungs pump oxygen into the blood stream, raising the heartbeat and blood pressure, providing the energy needed for escape.
The stressors of our world today though, tend to be more mental in nature. Yet our body reacts in this same way, which is why the physical release exercise offers is so beneficial.
Another thing to consider is that as we age, there are these things called telomeres – caps protecting the end of each strand of our DNA which scientists liken to plastic caps on the ends of shoelaces – which shorten and fray, leaving our DNA vulnerable to harmful mutations. Exercise has a positive affect on them as well, with draxe.com saying, “. . . the more a person exercised, the longer their telomeres. The correlation between telomere length and exercise activity seemed to be strongest among those in middle age, suggesting that it’s never too late to start a fitness program and keep those telomeres from shortening.”
Hear that? “never too late”! Phew.
Some other ways to manage stress? We’ve talked about a lot of them before. Adopt a diet rich in antioxidant foods. Try yoga and meditation. Socialize with family and friends. Pursue hobbies you enjoy.
And? Don’t forget to laugh. If you haven’t guffawed lately, here’s Ellen’s response to a recent study that concluded young adults spend more that six hours per day feeling “stressed out”. https://www.ellentube.com/video/dear-millennials-it-gets-better.html