Chronic stress can contribute to the decrease of certain brain neurotransmitters.
The body does not discriminate stress…chronic stress is chronic stress; it means the body is in a prolonged state of ‘fight or flight’. Not good.
A cycle can occur: poor lifestyle habits cause stress hormones to increase, which causes neurotransmitters to decrease and voila a recipe for weight gain and mental illness, like depression can occur. It is a vicious cycle that can be stopped with permanent lifestyle changes.
Below is an action plan in decreasing chronic stress:
- Identify and journal your major and minor stressors. Two examples of major stress are pressure at work and relationship problems. An example of minor stress is driving downtown during rush hour. Keep a weekly journal of what stressed you out and what you were doing at the time. A good indicator that you are stressed is you will feel your heart beat faster.
- Identify and implement strategies for eliminating or reducing stressors. For example, change work hours to avoid rush hour if you can, or listen to calming music during the ride.
- Add de-stressing rituals to your daily routine. Some distressing examples are: stretching, yoga, meditation or deep breathing. Another simple example is taking 5 or 10 minutes a day to lie down on the floor in a darkened room listening to a nature CD. Avoid adding long yoga workouts if the mere thought of that stresses you out.
After a few weeks of implementing stress reduction strategies and de stressing rituals make another weekly journal, then compare it to your first set of journal entries, see if you have made progress in reducing the number of times you are stressed. Also look for new stressors that might need changing.
This action plan can be used anytime you realize that you are under prolonged or chronic stress.
Author: Julie Creighton
Martial Arts Instructor, Nutrition and Wellness Specialist