Stress... What Is Stress? What Causes Stress?
Adrenaline is pumping through your body, eyes are dilated, palms are sweaty, heartbeat speeds up, muscles tense, breath is short… Sound familiar? This is your body’s “fight or flight” response that occurs when you are in a stressful situation.
Your nervous system releases hormones, like cortisol, that prepare you to fight whatever the offending agent is or to run. This is your body’s short-term response to stress and it recovers quickly from this. This is a survival mechanism in the body and does more good than harm.
Cortisol, or the "stress hormone," is an absolute essential part of your normal health and function helping control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, assist with memory, and helps control blood pressure.
However if this stress if present over a long period of time (chronic stress), it can lead to more serious health problems. Aging more quickly, decreased immune system, and higher disease prevalence are just a few of the problems that can occur due to long term stress.
So, What Causes Stress?
Everything causes some kind of stress on the body. It can be good stress and bad stress. When we typically here the word stress, we think of bad stress, which can be caused by any of the following:
- Getting Fired
- Lack of job satisfaction
- Chronic disease
- Depression, anxiety, anger, grief, low self-esteem or other emotional problems
- Traumatic events like theft, rape, or violence against you
- Natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, or floods
- But not all stressors are bad
- Taking care of family
- MOST IMPORTANT = YOUR ATTITUDE
- How you view the world
- How you react to a particular situation
- Unrealistic expectations
- This is what I will focus on below
Stress Symptoms... Short Term and Long Term Effects of Cortisol on the Body
Stress causes an increase in your cortisol levels. Like discussed above, this can be vital for your health and safety. But chronic stress on the body can cause serious long term health conditions on the body. This occurs due to elevated cortisol levels present all the time.
Stress’s effects on the blood and circulatory system are what is thought to cause dry eyes. Blood is thicker, blood pressure is increased, and blood supply to extremities (legs, skin, arms) is decreased, which also affects the eyes and brain. This decrease in blood supply is thought to cause dry eyes.
Short Term Effects of Stress on the Body - “Fight or Flight”
- Dry eyes
- Fatigue – feeling tired
- Dilated pupils
- Stiff neck and shoulder pain
- Back pain
- Increased heart rate
- Sweaty palms and feet
- Upset stomach
Long Term Effects of Stress on the Body
- Dry eyes
- Infertility due to hormone fluctuations and changes
- Heart disease
- Suppressed immune systems
- Muscle pains
How To Relieve Stress. Stress Management And Stress Relief, Relaxation Techniques
Tip #1 Get Grounded
Grounding is the practice of getting back in touch with the naturally negative charged free electrons that the earth has. Research has shown that if you place your bare feet on the ground (grass, beach, ocean... not concrete) after injury, electrons from the earth will migrate into your body and spread through your tissues.
During injury when our immune system responds, it releases many chemicals that create an inflammatory cascade. One chemical released is reactive oxygen species, or free radicals, which can leak into healthy tissue causing inflammation in non-injured tissue. When grounding, electrons from the earth travel to this area and naturally bind to these free radicals, neutralizing them and making them harmless.
This is a process that is CONSTANTLY going on in your body, so grounding daily is very beneficial. You have probably heard people talk about the power of the beach and ocean? That is because we finally take our rubber-soled, electron-blocking shoes off and walk barefoot. You can also sit outside with your barefeet in the grass.
According to the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, grounding benefits can include better sleep and reduced pain (from decreased inflammation).
Tip #2 Get 10 Minutes Of Sunshine Before 10:00 am
Who doesn't like a good sunbath? Getting as little as 10 minutes of sunlight in the morning can provide numerous health benefits for you later that day and for overall health and vitality.
A reduction in Vitamin D plays a large role in a ton of chronic diseases including dry eye, asthma, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and more. Your skin will absorb the morning sunlight to be used later in the day for vitamin D production which helps reduce the risk of these diseases.
Speaking of using later in the day, morning sunlight increases your seratonin production, which your body converts into melatonin later in the day. Melatonin is increased when the sun goes down, and it starts to signal to your body to go to sleep.
Avoid phones, TV's and other electronic devices at night as this inhibits melatonin production therefore leading to worse sleep. Wearing a par of blue light blocking glasses will also help with increasing your melatonin production.
Sunlight helps increase endorphins in the body, which help to decrease stress and anxiety.
Tip #3: Meditation
According to Merriam-Webster, meditation is to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one's breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness. Now before you think I am going all spiritual, or foo-foo, on you, please read this whole short section.
What if you could meditate in as short as 10 seconds per day?
What if this meditation could decrease stress levels, therefore decreasing your risks of disease, such as dry eyes, heart disease, neck pain, and more?
Meditation does NOT have to be an ultra spiritual, out-of-body experience only reserved for Buddhists in the mountains of Nepal. It can be, but it can also be highly beneficial for other reasons.
How to Meditate to Decrease Disease Risk
This simple meditation technique can be used ANYWHERE. Whenever you’re feeling stressed, depressed, anxious, nervous, or just need to get refocused. I use it several times a day when I am feeling flustered and need to get refocused or less stressed.
- Close your eyes
- Take a slow deep breath in. This deep breath in should take five seconds and you should count the five seconds in your head.
- Hold your breath for two seconds
- Then a long slow exhale for five seconds
Watch the video for a simple meditation guide
Tip #4 Yin Yoga
According to Wikipedia, Yin yoga is a slow paced style of yoga with postures, or asanas, that held for longer periods of time, usually 45 seconds up to five minutes or more.
Yin yoga increases circulation in the joints and improves flexibility.
Yin yoga can also be combined with meditation and it aims at cultivating awareness of silence and interconnecting with your purpose or higher being.
This also allows us to slow down the minds, stretch the muscles, and reduce our stress and anxiety, which will help you fall asleep at night. We tend to start our yin yoga practice around 9:00 pm at night and then go to sleep afterwards.
Practice is usually 15 minutes to 60 minutes.
Here are a few of our favorite examples
Tip #5 Gratitude Journaling
By far one of the best tips on this list and another favorite of mine. Gratitude journal is as simple as writing down three or more things everyday in paper journal.
Keep a paper journal beside your bed with a pen. Every night before you go to sleep, write anything that happened during that day that was positive and that you are grateful for.
Expressing gratitude on a nightly basis will help you look for positivity in people and the world around you because you are starting to train your brain to do so.
Also avoid negativity like the news, complainers, and drama.
Gratitudes can be large or small. Here is an example journal entry:
1. I am grateful for Jenna doing the laundry today and making lunch for me.
2. I am grateful that Jude is feeling better after a stomach ache from last night.
3. I am grateful for the Espresso roast coffee that I had this morning.
4. I am grateful for having the freedom to be able to watch the World Cup even though the US Soccer team did not make it :(
5. I am grateful for a beautiful sunny day.
Tip #6 Mind Dump Journaling
Do you ever feel like you have WAY too much to do and you can't figure out what to do first, so you end up doing nothing at all? This is a result of overwhelm. There is an extremely easy way to deal with overwhelm, and it is what I like to call mind dump journaling.
This is where I like to put on a 20 minute meditation song or video (click here for one) and write down absolutely everything I have to do for work, health, personal life, for my wife and son, and anything else that comes to mind.
After about 5 minutes, take a look at your list and circle the most important ones on your list.
Ask yourself, what is most important right now.
You should have less than 10 items circled on your list.
Label these items in order of importance, one being the most important and 10 being the least important.
On a separate sheet of paper, write the top three things you have to do as labeled one, two, and three.
Focus on finishing number one, before ever thinking about doing number two. Once finished with number one, move on to number two, without ever focusing on three.
Continue this process whenever you have a state of overwhelm.
Tip #7 Get Rid Of Your Victim Mentality... Cause >> Effect
As Tony Robbins says, “What if life is happening FOR us and not TO us?” What this means is that we need to stop thinking that everything that happens in our life is happening TO us. Stop being the victim and reacting to all scenarios. You get to choose how you react to that person cutting you off or your colleague making fun of you. If you start thinking of life happening FOR us, you start to think, what can I learn from this situation to not let it happen again or to improve my life?
Instead of being reactive, be proactive. Choose to not react to the guy cutting you off or the baby crying or the traffic accident that caused you to be late to work (at least you’re not in the accident). If something happens to you that is less than pleasant, close your eyes and take a deep breath.
Go over tip #3 again, meditation. That is the exact technique I use multiple times per day to avoid these problems and stay on the CAUSE side of the equation. This technique can save you from doing something that you will regret for the rest of your life.
Bonus Tip #1 Don't sweat the small stuff, and it is all small stuff
Bonus Tip # 2 Eliminate Bad Fats, Increase Good Fats
Eating fats in our diet has received a bad rep for several years, but not all fats are created equal. If you increase the amount of good fats in your diet, this will significantly reduce your dry eyes, depression, and anxiety.
How do you do that?
Eliminate, or eat in moderation, bad saturated fats. These are found in most foods in the Western diet. This includes fried foods, baked good (cookies, cakes, pies), most desserts (ice cream), most fast foods, pastries, mayonnaise, and more.
Instead focus on whole foods that are high in omega-6 and omega-3 for your fat intake. Some of the best sources of omega-3s include fish oil in salmon, sardines, halibut or you can take an omega-3 fish oil supplement, like our Heyedrate Omega-3 for Eye Health. Vegetarian sources include flax seed, chia seeds, walnuts, Brussels sprouts, kale, and spinach.