Stress and Walking Toward Wellness

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but how we address it is controllable. This week we focus on this nefarious word and look at ways we can take care of ourselves.

Our bodies are designed by God to react to outside stimuli to keep us safe. For instance, if a lion is charging at you, your brain will release Cortisol, a hormone that will prepare your body to fight the lion, or to run. Now, hopefully, most of you are not having to battle lions daily, but we do face tons of stressful situations in our lives. That same hormone helps us to deal with them. However, sometimes extended Cortisol production can cause our bodies to get stuck in that fight or flight mode even when we don't need to. This can have negative consequences on our wellness. I affects four main aspects connected to our mental health: our thoughts, our bodily reactions, our behaviours, and our emotions.

The effects of stress can show up in our thoughts as a struggle to concentrate or to make decisions, or as a loss of self-confidence and negativity toward yourself our others. Our bodies respond to prolonged stress by fighting itself. We can feel achy muscles, have rapid breathing, elevated heart rates, headaches, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, changes in sex drive, and a weakened immune system (leading to all sorts of sickness). The way we react to the world also can change: we might withdrawl from others, have trouble calming ourselves, fidgeting, turning to harmful substances, or outright avoidance of situations. And finally, our emotions take a toll. We could experience an increase in worry or confusion, anger or irritability, feel a sense of being overwhelmed, and feeling like we just can't cope.

The good news is that we can counteract the effects of prolonged stress and help our bodies to slow the production of Cortisol when we don't need it. The Mayo Clinic suggests getting regular physical activity, practice relaxation techniques, find a sense of humor (laughter really is good medicine), develop healthy relationships, and pursue hobbies. This is called informed self-care, and can include praticing aromatherapy on yourself! However, if you find yourself stuck, and the symptoms of stress pursist even after trying to take care of yourself, it may be time to seek professional help. Trained psychotherapist, counselors, like Achlaï or even clinical aromatherapists, like Kenny can help you to address the root causes of the stress and support ways of walking to wellness. Our encouragement for you: don't stay stuck, take that first step by asking for help.