Think those anxious or stressful thoughts only go as far as your head? Incorrect.
Our body hears everything our mind says.
We store issues in our tissues.
Stress can be caused by a number of things - being overworked, poor diet, lack of sleep, slow internet, girlfriends, boyfriends, deciding what to eat, flat phone, no charger. You get me.
When we are stressed our brain sends a message to our adrenal glands (that sit on top of our kidneys) to release two hormones: adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline is responsible for our fight or flight response.
Cortisol basically says 'HEY body, STOP everything that is unnecessary right now!' Switch off the immune, digestive and reproductive system and don't turn them back on until we've dealt with this situation! So that can very easily lead to sickness, stomach pains, weight gain (because our body is like OH OW hold onto that fat, we might not be eating for 3 weeks), no periods, infertility. These aren't things to be taken lightly. But on a lighter note, if you're a guy, don't worry about missing your period...
The annoying thing? Our body doesn't know the difference between us freaking out about the assignment we have due in 3 days that we haven't yet started (raising my hand) or if we're at Australia Zoo and we've just fallen into the crocodile enclosure (I better not have nightmares about this tonight). Our body responds the same way... not ideal.
Acute stress is fine but if our body is constantly telling us to get in fight or flight mode our adrenals eventually flip a table and scream I AM DONE!!! You'd think this would be obvious but it can sneak up on you unknowingly and one day it feels like a semi trailer has unloaded a tonne of bricks on your life. You start to wake up from long sleeps and still feel like a dead sloth. Your quadruple shot coffee does nothing but leave you with bad breath. Almost nothing can cure the darkness under your eyes and afternoon naps are a must.
The effects of anxiety and stress are magnified like crazy in our body when we don't move. Tension in our muscles builds up (tight neck and shoulders anyone?), our breathing is constricted and our chest tightens, our mind keeps replaying anxious thoughts which lead to anxious feelings.
Being in a constant state of stress will cause our body to shut down. It's not cool to be busy and run off our feet. I'm studying Law and the levels of stress I have felt or noticed with friends and even those already in the legal professional break my heart and there isn't much support around for it. We can still be productive and look after ourselves at the same time.
Your health is the most important thing in life. Because welllll IT'S KEEPING YOU ALIVE! Rarely anyone puts it at the top of the list but if you look after yourself every other important thing will thank you for it (work, family, sanity...).
Simple solution = have a stretch and focus on your breath.
This will help you direct your attention out of the fuzz inside your head and into the rest of your body, relieve your tight muscles, flush out your body with some fresh blood and oxygen, and generally just feel a whole lot better! You don't need to do a high intensity workout or complete a half marathon. You just need to be gentle, take 5 (or an hour), focus on the sound of your inhale and exhale and be kind to yourself.
Even if you don't feel peaceful whilst you stretch or do gentle exercise, on a physiological level your body is starting to find balance. It will come out of the fight or flight state and things will begin to return to normal. The more you do it the better it gets. I have a blog dedicated to making your yoga practice more peaceful so have a read of that too (if you struggle getting your head to settle)!
I hope this has helped you understand stress a bit more and what you can do to help yourself on an emotional and physical level.
Stretching is my absolute life saver for dealing with anxiety and stress. I guess I have stress to thank too. If I never reached rock bottom with chronic fatigue, Elle Fit Active wouldn't exist. So look for the silver lining. There is SO much to learn about your body and sometimes we just need to reach a point of complete exhaustion to start listening.
I really hope you learn to listen earlier than I did. But if you're in the same boat - know that it gets better!!
Stretch MORE, stress LESS!
If you don't already have my stretching guides check out Get Bendy & Get Split. Get Inverted is great for some upside down fun too - guaranteed to make you forget about stressful times!
If you like watching videos, like I do, check out this video from ASAP Science about what stress does to our bodies.
Look after yourself!
P.S. Know a stress head? Forward on this article or lock in a stretch with them :)