For me, living happy means completely immersing yourself in the best parts of your life. Family, hobbies, relaxation, creative outlets are all what make life worth living. But if you are like most people I know, myself included, it’s hard to focus completely on your happiness with the ever constant background noise of stress. Work, bills, house repairs, health concerns and a nagging boss, all contribute to a constant knot in the stomach that challenges your ability to live happy and enjoy life.
What is stress?
When the body detects a threatening situation a signal is sent to the hypothalamus in the brain. The hypothalamus releases hormones that stimulate the pituitary gland to release even more hormones, which trigger the adrenal glands to release cortisol. Cortisol has many effects on the body all designed to help you deal with the threat at hand.
Once the threat is over, the body works in reverse to remove the cortisol from the body and return to homeostasis. Homeostasis put simply is the body’s desire to return its internal environment back to a stable equilibrium. The presence of cortisol and the concept of homeostasis is critical in thinking about good stress vs. bad stress.
What’s the difference between good stress and bad stress?
I define good stress as acute stress. Acute stress allows you react quickly to avoid a car crash, to understand and prepare to defend yourself from a threatening situation, or in old days, to avoid being eaten by a lion. This is good, important, and critical to our survival. The body ids trenched in cortisol, adrenaline makes you hyper-aware and allows you to fight, run or react with much greater efficiency. Almost every system in your body is affected, which takes you far from homeostasis. Once the threat is over, the body returns to its normal state.
Bad stress on the other hand is what is called chronic stress. Chronic stress is the result of constant and prolonged periods of stress and anxiety. The constant Removal and Understanding Stress associated with a difficult work situations, problems at home or the care of a sick parent for example cause the body to be out of homeostatic balance. The body reacts to this by releasing stress hormones like a constant drip. Continuous stress hormones can have a devastating effect on the body and shows itself in many ways, raising the risk of:
High blood pressure
Suppressed immune system
Chronic stress creeps up on you and by the time you are chronically stressed you may not realize how bad it is. If you are chronically stressed you must change your habits now! Reducing bad stress is essential for living happy and a must for healthy living.
How do I avoid chronic stress?
Reducing bad stress in your life can be difficult when the root causes are unavoidable but you can limit the amount of stress in your life even under the worst of circumstances by following a few simple lifestyle changes:
Eat healthy: the effects of stress are exaggerated when compounded with a poor diet. Proper nutrition will boost the immune system and allow you to overcome stress more efficiently.
Exercise: a healthy exercise program will get your mind off the causes of your stress, will reconnect the mind and body, and releases large amounts of endorphins, a natural stress reducer.
Meditate: A difficult task at first for the overly stressed but nothing will quiet the mind a reduce stress quite like regular active meditation. Quiet meditation or active meditation like yoga are excellent ways put perspective on your life and clear the negative thoughts in your head.
Remember, no matter how difficult life can get, it always gets better. Understand that life is a cycle and that good times don’t last forever and the bad times always get better. Knowing this alone will go a long way to helping you accept the tough times. Understand and realize when you are stressed, and actively take steps to reduce it and you will be much closer to living a truly happy life.