“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” — Mohandas Gandhi
You know the obvious signs of stress: low energy, mild headaches, general aches and discomforts, lack of sound sleep, and a lowered immune system. But for millions, stress is so fundamental to who we are that we hardly notice it’s there anymore. This undesired trespasser takes up permanent residence in our brains and, ultimately, our bodies. It makes itself known only when it negatively impacts your well-being. By then, its impact can affect your overall quality of life.
Here are some signs that stress could be affecting you without your knowledge:
You’re becoming more forgetful.
A missed deadline here, a forgotten meeting there. Leaving home without your wallet, or spacing out on your child’s after-school appointment. It’s happened to all of us. But if these instances are starting to occur more often, you could be dealing with an overload. Research published in the Journal of Neuroscience indicated that stressful events can interact with specific genes in the brain and shrink the size of the hippocampus. And that can affect your ability to take in and retain new information.
The solution: Exercise, meditation, adequate sleep and time with friends all help to combat the effects of stress.
Your stomach is in knots.
What happens in your brain can have an effect on your digestion. When your brain perceives a threat, you go into the fight-or-flight response, and all of the body’s resources are redirected to address that perceived threat. A report issued by the University of Maryland Medical Center states: “The brain and intestines are closely related. They are controlled by many of the same hormones and parts of the nervous system. Some research suggests that the gut itself has features of a primitive brain.” Stress can either slow down or speed up your digestive process. And stressing about your digestion simply makes the problem worse.
The solution: Eat smaller portions, avoid heavy meals with high fat content, drink plenty of water and be sure to incorporate fiber-rich foods in your diet.
You just hurt.
Mild aches and discomforts can occur when your body is under stress. You might have just figured that general joint and muscle discomfort were part of getting older. But tress could be at the root of your problems. Does your jaw feel sore when you chew food? You may not even be aware that you’re grinding your teeth while you sleep. Is your back is bothering you more than ever? Consider how much time you spend sitting each day, between your commute, a desk job and evening activities. Many of us don’t even realize how tense our muscles are when we’re sitting for hours on end.
The solution: For jaw discomfort, see your dentist for an exam. You might need a night guard to ward off further tooth deterioration caused by grinding. For general back aches or discomforts, regular standing and stretching breaks, a lumbar pillow, exercise and an ergonomic assessment — if it’s available to you at work — are all smart ways to combat soreness.
You’re always tired.
“When we do not sleep long or well enough, our bodies do not get the full benefits of sleep, such as muscle repair and memory consolidation,” says the American Psychological Association. “Sleep is so crucial that even a slight lack of restful sleep or poor sleep can affect memory, judgment and mood.” Stress doesn’t just prevent you from sleeping soundly at night. The fact is that, even if you’re “asleep” for eight hours, if you’re stressed, the quality of your sleep is impacted. You might not have a restful night’s sleep or wake up not feeling fully rested – and not even understand why you feel so tired.
The solution: A good workout at least two hours before bedtime can help you burn off the stresses of your day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a two-hour “buffer zone” before bedtime, during which all work-related activities are shut down. No phone calls – not even to friends or family, as conversation activates the brain. Some light reading, meditation and/or white noise will help prep the mind and body for a good night’s sleep.
Overcoming stress is really about reclaiming your life, and recapturing the joy and vitality that the daily grind may have stolen from you. Life is complicated enough, so taking care of yourself should be simple. Starting each day on the right foot sets the tone for your day. The THRIVE suite of products was designed just for that purpose. More than 4 million THRIVE customers throughout the globe are enjoying all-day benefits including joint support, digestive support, mood support and more restful sleep.