Are You Squirreling Stress: Causes and Effects of Stress
Are you a “squirreller?” Do you hide money, tuck away sweet treats and keep a few things in reserve, “just in case?” While these may be positive attributes, storing up the effects of stress, harboring negative thoughts and increasing physical tension can be extremely damaging for your health, according to experts.
In the fall, squirrels are particularly active as they search for nuts, seeds, acorns and pine cones which are a source of food. These furry creatures are known for their habit of burying caches of food in a favorite place, which will allow them to survive the winter. In the same way, you probably have a favorite place on your body where all the effects of stress and tension hang out.
Physical Effects of Stress
Causes of stress in modern-day life can range from worrying about bills, lack of sleep and working long hours to frustrating traffic congestion on your morning commute. Stop and analyze your body for a moment, and find out where those effects of stress tend to linger. Common places that succumb to stress and tension include:
- Tense, hunched shoulders
- Unnatural neck and throat positions
- A “tight” head causing headaches and migraine
- Upper and lower back tension
- Stiff arms
- Queasy, acid-filled stomach
Harboring stress can lead to serious health conditions including stomach ulcers, back pain, migraine clusters and poor digestion. However, being aware of the tell-tale signs of stress in your personal “storage area” can be the first step to releasing that tension and dealing with the causes of stress.
Related: Lose Stress to Gain Joy
How to Counter the Effects of Stress
Wherever you find yourself – at your desk, in the kitchen, driving the kids to school or lying awake at night – you can begin to de-stress by deep breathing. Become conscious of each breath and make each one slower and deeper than the last. This simple exercise is often enough to alleviate the pressure before the causes of stress take hold and find their way to your stress storage point.
Research into the brain shows that social engagement is an effective tool in the fight against the effects of stress. Making eye contact with a smiling face, talking to a friend and feeling understood, or even listening to someone else’s joys and sorrows can halt the natural “fight-or-flight” reactions to stress. As you respond to the causes of stress with social engagement you will begin to calm down, think more rationally and your heartbeat and blood pressure will return to normal.
Defusing stress also allows your digestive system to return to normal, and will stop the brain flooding the body with cortisol and other “emergency” hormones.
In the long-term, allowing the causes of stress to “get under your skin” can cause immeasurable harm to your heart, digestive and immune systems. By learning to let go of the harmful effects of stress you can lower hypertension, slow down the aging process and reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack.