Guest Writer: Ashley Elizabeth
We’ve all experienced the effects of stress in one form or another. Feeling stressed out sucks, especially when it becomes chronic.
Stress affects everything from your digestion, immune function, cognition, and mood. In simplest terms, stress is your body’s response to changes that take place in your environment that are deemed ‘unsafe.’
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a perfect environment for a full-blown stress meltdown. It is normal to feel stressed right now. The world feels like it’s upside down—literally.
On top of that, the uncertainty and constant health threats surrounding COVID-19 have led to a surge in mental health issues. A study found that 70% of the U.S. population have identified as moderately to severely distressed since the onset of the pandemic. Can you relate?
It has never been more important to master our emotional health. The pandemic has shown us that, while we can’t control the external world, we always have control over how we respond to it.
Everyone experiences stress, but not everyone deals with it in the same way. The good news is that you have the power to effectively manage your stress so that your world doesn’t feel like it’s falling apart every time you’re hit with a challenge.
Before you can do that, it’s important to understand how the mind-body connection works.
The Mind-Body Connection and Stress
Despite popular opinion, the mind and the body are not two separate entities. Your physical body impacts your emotions and visa versa. As you can imagine, if there is disharmony in the body, there will also be disharmony in the mind, which in turn will influence your stress levels.
One study found that the type of energy patterns that are carried by certain words and intentions can cause physical changes in DNA structure which become the building blocks of your body.
Have you ever felt a nauseous feeling in your stomach when you’re anxious about something? If so, you’ve experienced the mind-body connection at play.
The next time you find yourself saying something negative, remember that your thoughts determine how your body behaves. Negative emotions contribute to dis-ease in the body. Be mindful of the words you speak because your body is always listening to you. What you think, you become.
The Effects of Stress on the Mind and Body
Life is a rollercoaster ride which means that stress will happen. You cannot hide from it. The best thing that you can do is take preventative measures to ensure that stress doesn’t wreak havoc on your mind and body over the long-term. Here are 3 lesser-known effects of stress.
1. Weakened Immune System
Your health is your wealth. Without you, you have nothing. If you don’t have a strong immune system, your body won’t be able to fight off disease and/or viruses.
COVID-19 has taught us how important it is to take care of our immune systems. If you want to maintain a strong immune system get a good night’s sleep, do regular exercise, eat healthy foods, take immune-boosting supplements, and commit to relaxation practices. This is how you will train your immune system to work for you instead of against you.
2. Gut Problems
There is a strong correlation between digestive health and stress. The gut and the brain are constantly communicating and sending signals to one another.
Have you ever felt like you were punched in the gut after receiving awful news? Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous about something? These reactions happen for a reason.
An imbalanced intestine can send signals to the brain, just as an imbalanced brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach pains can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression.
So, the next time you have an unexplained stomach ache, your stress levels could be the culprit. Avoid foods that can irritate your stomach and aggravate the symptoms of stress, like refined sugars and fried foods. I like to take acidophilus regularly which helps to increase healthy bacteria in the gut.
Lastly, I encourage you to create a daily Kundalini yoga practice. Kundalini yoga is great for stimulating the flow of energy in the body. There are specific Kundalini exercises that support healthy digestion, some of which include Breath of Fire, Stretch Pose, and Sat Kriya.
Stress is a normal response to positive and negative life experiences. However, if you have trouble coping with stress over the long-term, you can put yourself at risk for developing depression. Sustained or chronic stress leads to elevated hormones such as cortisol, and reduced serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine.
When you experience heightened levels of stress, you are more likely to experience a low mood. Unfortunately, a low mood will make you more prone to not engaging in healthy activities, like exercising and eating well. As a result, your mood will suffer even more.
This toxic spiraling effect is what causes a lot of people to experience symptoms of depression, like fatigue, anxiety, loss of appetite, or in severe cases, suicidal thoughts.
COVID-19 has put a lot of people at risk for depression. With everything that is currently going on in the world, people are more susceptible to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness which can precipitate the onset of depression.
One of the best ways to prevent yourself from falling into a spiral of sadness is to seek professional help. A psychologist or a coach can help you navigate through the difficult times and give you tools for reducing stress and anxiety.
Secondly, create a daily mindfulness-based practice and make it a non-negotiable. Mindfulness can be in the form of meditation, yoga, dancing, tai chi, or breathwork.
Practicing mindfulness helps you reprogram negative thoughts and reassess difficult experiences with a more calm mind.
Don’t Allow Stress to Take Over Your Life
You have two choices—you can either let stressors suffocate your health and well-being, or you can transform your wounds into wisdom and rewrite a new story.
If you’re scared, it’s okay. You’re human. Allow yourself to feel everything, but don’t lose yourself in the mess. Take a deep breath and trust that your strength is greater than any struggle.
This article was reprinted with permission. Visit the author’s website for more articles and free email subscription at Lifehack