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Strategies For Combating Stress

Whether it be due to work, relationships, the pandemic, an upcoming event, or anything else, we all deal with stress at different points in our lives. One study found that 77% of Americans experience stress that affects their physical health. Some people experience more than others and for more extended periods. 

Whatever the case may be for you, there are several universal stress remedies you can put into action today to start coming back out toward the light.


What is stress?


The Cleveland Clinic defines stress as "a normal reaction the body has when changes occur, resulting in physical, emotional and intellectual responses."

Understanding stress and why we experience it will require a little brush up on our old friend, the amygdala. At its most basic, the amygdala, which is in the brain, is made up of two cashew-sized processors and controls our senses, decisions, and moods. 


Similar in ways to a thermostat, the amygdala regulates how we respond to things like stress and fear. If it senses a low level of stress, it will remain cool; if it detects a normal threat, it'll crank up; if it becomes overstimulated, it may overheat and cause us to act irrationally and reactively.


Evolutionarily speaking, the amygdala is extremely useful since it alerts us to life-and-death threats, like when we approach a wild animal – which sets off our fight or flight response. However, that function is less useful in modern times since we are rarely confronted with such dangerous situations. 


Yet, although times have changed, our biology has not. And everyday events like an upcoming deadline trigger the same stress response that facing a hungry tiger would.


While stress is normal and even helpful at times—such as when it provides the "push" to power through a task and meet a deadline—it can adversely affect a person's life if it persists beyond its usefulness.


When a person experiences mental stress, they may worry more, have feelings of dread, anger, hostility, a sense of foreboding, and even panic. 


Meditation


When adopted as a consistent, daily practice, meditation is scientifically shown to reprogram the brain to enhance its ability to manage and cope with stress. In just eight weeks of regular practice, studies show that meditation helps alleviate stress.


The result of sustained meditation practice is a more open and less reactive mind, which is better suited to coping with life's many stressors – like work, family, relationships, and finances, to name a few. 


Typically, we get caught up in our stress and the stories that propagate it. Meditation allows us to observe these mental patterns rather than get caught up in them. Thus, they lose a lot of their power, and we become less affected by them.


Exercise


According to Harvard Health Publishing, "Regular physical activity will lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol, and reduce your blood sugar." It also "cuts the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, colon and breast cancers, osteoporosis and fractures, obesity, depression, and even dementia (memory loss)."


15-20 minutes of vigorous exercise is all your body needs to reap these benefits. Alternatively, you can opt for a 30–40 minute low-intensity workout like walking around the block.


Whatever you choose, consistency is ultimately the key. Keep at it, and marvel as the fruits of your labor start to roll in.

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