Day 26 – Reduce Your Stress - Improve Your Health
Updated: Apr 19
"This order of magnitude makes distressing emotions as toxic a risk factor as, say, smoking or high cholesterol are for heart disease—in other words, a major threat to health."
What a week! I’ve loved it though. But definitely time for some relaxation. Saturdays are often my chill out day, it’s a rest day from training so it makes sense for it to be a restful day overall.
Research tells us that stress is linked to a variety of the most well-known diseases of this modern era, including:
Coronary Heart Disease
This is why working through our emotional health and living a healthy lifestyle is super important… and no, alcohol is not the antidote to stress – check out the last blog to see why.
Toxic Stress in Childhood
"Twenty years of medical research has shown that childhood adversity literally gets under our skin, changing people in ways that can endure in their bodies for decades. It can tip a child’s developmental trajectory and affect physiology. It can trigger chronic inflammation and hormonal changes that can last a lifetime. It can alter the way DNA is read and how cells replicate, and it can dramatically increase the risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes — even Alzheimer’s."
Nadine Burke Harris
Research has shown that people who have adverse experiences in childhood are significantly more at risk of ill health as adults compared with people who had minimal or no such experiences early in life. The key being the level of stress the child or infant was subject to and for how long.
In a ‘normal’ stressful situation the child or infant looks to the caregiver for love and reassurance in order to navigate stressful times. When children experience this, their brain begins to form healthy neural pathways for managing stress. If a child or infant is not helped to manage the stressful experience and they are left with stress hormones coursing through their system, the brain’s understanding of how to manage stress can become maladaptive. If stress hormones are regularly left unresolved within the child or infant, a phenomenon known as toxic stress, the impact of these hormones becomes disadvantageous to the person’s health later in life.
If a child or infant is left with a maladaptive stress response, it can mean that they as adults experience more secretion of stress hormones in stressful situations since the brain has not learned the most efficient and effective ways for dealing with stress. This overabundance of stress hormones in childhood and adulthood can become detrimental to health.
The maladaptive stress response can also lead to addictive behaviours such as overeating or alcohol misuse in adulthood since the brain will look for ways to appease the stress response by gaining a hit of dopamine through the pleasure-reward system of the brain.
If we don’t learn to understand our emotional self and where the behaviours stem from, we will never free ourselves from destructive or addictive behaviours.
It’s important to have compassion for ourselves and for our caregivers, since no one is perfect and behaviour is only ever a symptom of the human system and not a marker of how good or bad a person is. I believe that all people are inherently good. It is difficult situations and emotions left unresolved that bring about bad or negative behaviours.
Hate the behaviour but have compassion for the soul.
The good news is that the brain is adaptable throughout life, this is called neuroplasticity. We can re-train the brain to learn news ways to manage situations and stress.
Learning to take time out is one way to begin to heal the mind, body and soul.
Stress in Adulthood
“People who experienced chronic anxiety, long periods of sadness and pessimism, unremitting tension or incessant hostility, relentless cynicism or suspiciousness, were found to have double the risk of disease-including asthma, arthritis, headaches, peptic ulcers, and heart disease (each representative of major, broad categories of disease).
This order of magnitude makes distressing emotions as toxic a risk factor as, say, smoking or high cholesterol are for heart disease—in other words, a major threat to health.
In a 1993 review in the Archives of Internal Medicine of extensive research on the stress-disease link, Yale psychologist Bruce McEwen noted a broad spectrum of effects: compromising immune function to the point that it can speed the metastasis of cancer; increasing vulnerability to viral infections; exacerbating plaque formation leading to atherosclerosis and blood clotting leading to myocardial infarction; accelerating the onset of Type I diabetes and the course of Type II diabetes; and worsening or triggering an asthma attack.”
Whether or not we experience toxic stress in childhood, if we begin to experience an increase in stress over a prolonged period of time in adulthood, the stress hormones will begin to have a detrimental effect on our health.
Many psychoanalysts from differing schools of thought suggest that prolonged stress in adulthood will be linked to some level of unresolved emotional distress from childhood, whether or not the childhood distress went as far as causing toxic stress.
It is, therefore important to work on our emotional health and even go so far back as childhood to understand the root cause of our behaviours in adulthood.
The Importance of Good Health Habits
I believe there are three key elements to ensuring good health and a reduction in stress and the impact of stress:
Fitness for me is about being active for health – it doesn’t necessarily mean going and doing crazy-arse fitness classes or extreme adventure challenges! It simply means being active for health.
Due to the advent of technology life has become very comfortable meaning we do not need to move and be as active as our ancestors would have been. We humans were designed for movement and hence exercise is important for maintaining health and wellbeing.
If stress is something we experience, it is important that we get sensible exercise in order to offset the negative effects of our stress hormones.
“We say exercise is good for health and I would almost flip it on it’s head and say not exercising is bad for your health. In the same way that they say going into nature lowers your blood pressure, I would say being out of nature raises your blood pressure. Our origin story is movement and is being in the natural environment and so movement is our natural state it what’s we’re evolved for and it’s the not moving that’s bad for you. We say exercise is good for you, do it. But exercising should be our default.”
Jesse Charles, MD
We have become accustomed to junk and processed food which, is no surprise in this fast-paced life where we seldom seem to have the time to prepare food properly on a daily basis. Throw into the mix the clever marketing strategies from big food businesses and we are to some degree a little helpless to our emotional whims for junk food.
However, research shows that eating a diet high in junk food and refined sugar is bad for our health. Since the introduction of these foods into our diet, ill health has been significantly on the increase in positive correlation with the rise in their consumption.
Research shows that a diet high in whole foods and in particular veg and fruit, yields significant health benefits.
If stress is something we experience, it is important that we consume 400-800grams of vegetables and fruit per day (vegetables taking priority over fruit) in order to offset the negative effects of our stress hormones.
"Fruit and vegetable intakes were associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and all-cause mortality. These results support public health recommendations to increase fruit and vegetable intake for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature mortality."
Aune, Giovannucci, Boffetta, Fadnes, Keum, Norat, Greenwood, Riboli, Vatten, Tonstad
It is important to practice positive mindset on a daily basis. In the same way that if we want to be strong we must regularly train our muscles with weight bearing exercises, if we want to become resilient to stress and stressful situations, we must regularly practice positive mindset exercises.
It is also important to process our emotions. Much of the negative behaviours we experience in adulthood, addiction being one such behaviour, are the symptom of unresolved emotional distress from situations in life. If we never process these emotions, we will never be fully free from the negative behaviours that we are triggered into as a result of us supressing our emotions.
If we have negative behaviours impacting our life it is important to seek therapeutic help in order to work through the emotions buried deep below the behaviour. This can be via-self help or support via a qualified therapist. There are a wealth of therapies out there and it is an individual experience as to which therapy will help best to navigate our own behaviours and underlying emotional distress.
“Every one of us has the seed of mindfulness. The practice is to cultivate it.”
Thich Nhat Hanh
Whether or not therapy is necessary, daily practice such as mindfulness and/or mediation is useful in being able to manage stressful situations and negative thoughts and emotions.
The less stress we experience, the less stress hormones our body is subject to and, if we also ensure we move, eat well and take adequate rest, we will improve our overall health outcomes for life.
Day 26 - 365 Day Journal
I think it has subsided… but it was very mild in the end so I am not quite sure yet!
Things that were awesome today:
I had an awesome low intensity row today and my heart rate is back down nearly to what is was back in mid-December.
Things that I am grateful for:
The weekend! Wooohooo!
Caffeine, Alcohol & Alcohol Free Beverages
Bike, Indoor Row
Strength & Mobility
Veggies & Fruit
Meditation & Mindfulness
Morning – Silent meditation
Before bed – Guided meditation
I ask all readers to be respectful. This is an honest and heart-felt account of the struggle I have incurred.
I thank you in advance for your respect and kindness and I encourage you to sign up to my mailing list so I can notify you about new blog updates.
If you are struggling with any of the issues raised in my blogs please get in touch. Your conversations with me will remain confidential. Please note that I am not a therapist but I can support you to find a way to address any issues you may be experiencing.
Copyright 2021 Val Craft – All Rights Reserved