A lot of people today are under A LOT of stress. The demands of today’s world places a lot of pressure on people, so it’s more important than ever to practice de-stressing techniques that suit you.
Stress comes in three forms;
Emotional Stress — This type of stress comes from our emotions and reactions to daily life. From something as small as getting cut off in traffic to losing a loved one, this stress comes from how we think and respond to different situations. Anger, fear, anxiety, nervousness, sadness, grief, and negative thoughts are all examples of emotional stress. Negative thoughts, especially when thinking about yourself and your life, have a powerful effect on your overall health. A newer field of science, epigenetics, is finding that we are not controlled solely by our genetic make-up, but by how we respond and react to our environment. So, one way we can directly influence our genetic expression by how we think. How cool is that?! This means that the genes we express are “caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence” (Dr. Bruce Lipton, PhD).
Physical Stress — This kind of stress is caused by something physical or tangible directly affecting the body. Common examples of physical stress are accidents and trauma, headaches, organ dysfunction, etc. This is a source of stress because the body has been damaged or injured and has to use extra resources in order to repair. Repetitive stress from performing the same movement over and over (like at work) and postural tendencies also fall into the physical stress category.
Chemical Stress — This sort of stress is caused by the various toxins we encounter in our environment. This includes food, drinks (even water!), personal care and beauty products, cleaning supplies, cigarettes, drugs, industrial chemicals, and more. Many of these chemicals are forced upon by the circumstances of our residence, but we do have some choices and options to try to avoid some of these toxins. It is important to eliminate as many sources of toxins as possible because many of these toxins can alter hormone function and suppress the immune system.
In more simple words; your thoughts, traumas, and toxins are the sources of stress.
When the body is busy fending off the three forms of stress, the immune system takes a hit. This means the more stress you are under, the more likely you are to come down with a cold. One study found that chronic stressors (ones that occur over and over again) strongly increased the likelihood of disease.
So what can you do to de-stress?
Positive thinking: Pay attention to what you are thinking during the day. Are you busy cursing out the car next to you, worrying about things you cannot change, or constantly being down on yourself? Instead, take a moment to step into someone else’s shoes, come up with a positive sentence (mantra) that you can repeat until you feel less worried, and look yourself in the mirror then give yourself a sincere compliment. Yes, you do look awesome today and yes, you can do it!
Meditation: A lot of people think they cannot meditate, but like anything it only takes practice! To start off, try sitting for 3 minutes in a comfortable position. Turn off distractions, close your eyes, and breathe. When thoughts come in, acknowledge them, then try to let them go. Or, there are a lot of great apps that offer guided meditation. This is a great way to feel focused and energized in the morning or relaxed in the evening. When you practice meditation, you will be more capable of dealing with a lot of the emotional stressors that come around.
Make time for a hobby: When you carve in time to do an activity that you enjoy, it offers a break from the world. Whether it is reading a book with a cup of tea, hiking, or being creative, you are giving yourself a slice of happiness. Hobbies can help you to feel relaxed and renewed because you can provide your mind a rest from anxiety or tension.
Work it out: When we exercise, we produce our “happy hormones” (dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin). These hormones help to improve our mood and have us feelin’ great! To exercise takes focus which gives our mind a break from emotional stress and is also a great way to try to prevent physical stress!
Go through your “goop”: Look through all the lotions, soaps, make-up, and other body products you have. Read the ingredients and check for some of the more well researched toxins such as; parabens, synthetic colors, fragrance, phthalates, triclosan, and formaldehyde. These are not all of the potentially harmful toxins, but a good place to start when you want to avoid carcinogens (cancer causing), endocrine (hormone) disruptors, and skin irritants. Your skin is your largest organ and absorbs what you put on it.
Be picky about your pantry: Take a look through the foods you buy and eat. To minimize chemical stressors, toss out foods with artificial sweeteners and high-fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate, trans fats, and food dyes. Again, this is a good place to start to help you avoid carcinogens and neurotoxins. Another helpful tool is to use the dirty dozen and clean fifteen list while shopping. If you aren’t ready to totally switch to organic and non-GMO foods, this list will help you get the most important produce to buy clean.
Sources: Cohen S, Tyrrell DA, Smith AP. Psychological stress and susceptibility to the common cold. The New England journal of medicine 1991;325:606–12.
Cohen, S., Frank, E., Doyle, W. J., Skoner, D. P., Rabin, B. S., & Gwaltney, J. M., Jr. (1998). Types of stressors that increase susceptibility to the common cold in healthy adults. Health Psychology, 17(3), 214–223.
Lipton, B. (2005). The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter & Miracles. Santa Rosa, CA: Elite Books