Prioritizing and Reducing Stress
Staring at your task list at work or lying awake all night feeling your heart beat loudly in your chest while worrying about all the needs of your home life can begin to whittle away at your health, slowly, but undoubtedly. It may sound extreme, but if you are hoping to live a long, healthy, and happy life, it’s time you make some changes to your internal and external stressors. Your diet plays a tremendous role, as well as your sleep and exercise routines. Although work may be important to you, trying to reach the top of the hierarchy in your company won’t do you any good if you are experiencing excessively abnormal stress just to do so. You are simultaneously damaging your health and making way for countless health conditions down the line. Make your health a priority above everything else, since without optimum health and energy, you may start facing difficulties completing your work, household tasks, or even attending your favorite social gatherings. Stress can impact your mood and leave you feeling cranky around your loved ones. That’s why prioritizing and reducing stress should be at the top of your agenda, so you can take care of yourself.
Prioritizing and Reducing Stress
In the same way you make a meeting with your boss a priority by leaving the house an hour early that morning, wearing your favorite suit, and making sure you are presentable, you should be prioritizing and reducing stress. If you prioritize all other areas of life and your stress becomes excessive in the process, there will come a point when you are no longer capable of getting things done. Prioritizing and reducing stress is not complicated, but unquestionably, crucial.
The Serious Consequences of Stress
Stress can cause more serious damage than you can realistically imagine. Beyond making you sweat, you may feel like your heart is about to pop out of your chest, and your stomach may be in a big tight knot. Stress drastically damages both your physical and mental health.
While symptoms stress may begin as an innocent response caused by your body’s inbuilt stress response mechanism, not all stress is good. Short-term stress from sudden scares, such as being chased by a dog or almost getting into a car accident, protects your body. Your adrenal glands pump out hormones to combat the stress your body is experiencing. As the fear diminishes, so too do your high stress levels. Your body naturally goes back to a state of homeostasis. However, when you experience long-term stress—every single morning, every single night, and about every task in your life, small or big—your health may begin to decline. Your adrenal glands become overworked, which can disrupt your NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response system, leading to Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). The symptoms of AFS include chronic fatigue, feeling lethargic, headaches, migraines, inability to lose weight, lack of sexual drive, sleep onset insomnia, mild depression, and even thin and dry skin. In addition, stress has been linked to the development of numerous health conditions, such as cardiovascular diseases, respiratory system damage, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal problems, and much more.
Therefore, prioritizing and reducing stress should be your priority at all times. First, pinpoint your immediate stressors, and then take gradual steps to reduce and eliminate them.
Clean Up Your Diet, Now
Are you confused about how your diet has anything to do with stress? The food and drinks you consume are the building blocks of your cells, energy, mood, and overall physical well-being. If you feed your body processed junk, deep-fried treats, fast food items, and drinks that are extremely high in sugar, this will be reflected in your health. The effects can happen instantly or further down the road. Nonetheless, your diet will definitely impact your health at some point. Therefore, prioritizing and reducing stress must include cleaning up your diet. Instead of having donuts and coffee overloaded with heavy cream and sugar for breakfast—which will leave you feeling cranky, fatigued, and tired after several hours—try eating a high protein breakfast such as eggs. Eat more whole foods with every meal including fresh fruits and vegetables. Make your snacks raw organic nuts or seeds instead of highly processed and artificially flavored granola bars. If you find yourself eating an overall healthy diet, yet you are still experiencing stress over tiny things, look into various supplements. Start with a high-quality multivitamin that is free of additives, fillers, artificial food colorings, and unwarranted chemicals. Moreover, consume more omega-3 fatty acids, perhaps in the form of a clean high-quality supplement or by eating more fatty fish. Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation, balance your hormones, improve your cognitive health, and aid in relaxation.
With all that being said, hydrating properly is of utmost importance to prioritizing and reducing stress. Water is essentially what keeps you alive and without sufficient amounts you will deplete your health. Aim to drink water every morning upon waking to get your digestive system going, and also between meals, while sitting at school, or at your desk at work—or wherever else you may be. Always be sure to have water at hand. Water nourishes your cells, decreases your stress levels, improves your absorption of vitamins and nutrients, and keeps your mood at its peak too. Water improves the health of your gastrointestinal system, cardiovascular system, cognitive health, and kidneys. It simply doesn’t get better than that.
Mend Your Relationships, Improve Your Health
You can’t possibly expect to be healthy if you are allowing your emotional life to control you. If you allow relationships to dictate your mood, you will be the one that suffers. There is no doubt that your emotions have a huge impact on your health. Prioritizing and reducing stress goes hand in hand with improving the various relationships in your life. If you are experiencing difficulty in your marriage, talk to your spouse about what you can both do to make things better. Perhaps you need to take a communication class, have a few sessions with a marriage counselor, or just spend more time with each other doing fun activities. If your work is keeping you awake all night because your boss is not giving you time to breathe, speak up. Bottling up resentment or anger will detract from your energy, ruin your positive mood, and deplete your body of good vibes. Prioritizing and reducing stress by improving your relationships will leave you feeling happy, healthy, and energized. If you’re feeling extremely overwhelmed by your workload, talk to someone to find out if you can make some changes around the office. You simply need to take action in order to see change—remaining silent and bottling up your anger, resentment, or excessive stress will not do you, or anyone else, any good.
Take proper steps toward prioritizing and reducing stress and you will immediately improve your AFS and overall energy levels. A healthy lifestyle begins with healthy thoughts, and you can’t possibly produce healthy thoughts when you feel resentment towards your spouse, hatred surrounding your career, and anger towards everyone who cuts you off in traffic. Recognize that nothing is truly worth allowing your body to experience excessive stress. You only have one body so it’s vital that you take care of it.
© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. Lam’s Key Question
Is prioritizing and reducing stress really important for your wellbeing?
As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, prioritizing and reducing stress is important. In order to prevent various health conditions from developing in the future, or to recover from current ones such as AFS, you must reduce your stress.