What about everyday life stresses you out the most? Speaking in public? Politics? Work? Your mother-in-law showing up on your doorstep with a suitcase in her hand?
There’s no end to the everyday things that pile up on top of us. The list keeps growing. But if it’s true that misery loves company, you’re definitely not alone.
What is energy, and how do we burn it up and burn it out? Is there a simple definition?
Depends on who you are.
More Than Before
According to the American Psychological Association, on average, Millennials and Gen Xers report higher levels of stress than Baby Boomers. These days, each generation is more stressed out than the one that came before it.
Even in the comfy retreat of your home sweet home, when stress levels were compared from 2007 to 2015, adults surveyed said they found family responsibilities more stressful than ever.
No hub, wife or kids yet? You’re not out of the picture either, sunshine. The same study found that money and work woes were the other top stressors, irking a whopping 65-67% of all who responded.
It seems we hear the word “stress” wherever we turn these days. No pun intended, but, isn’t there something else we should be worried about?
Quite frankly – no!
It’s Got You by the Bodily Functions!
Occasional stress has a far-reaching effect on the body, and puts pressure on you from head to toe. Go ahead. Buckle up and take a look.
Everyone knows what it feels like when we narrowly miss hitting another car in traffic, or how our heart beats out of our chest when we’re called on the carpet by an angry boss.
What you may not notice is how your breathing rate increases when the boss comes howling, or how your digestive activity decreases simultaneously when you swerve and hit the brakes.
Even more curious are the things you can’t see when you’re stressed to the limit, like your liver releasing stored sugar from your stash, so your body can boost its blood sugar level.
All of these typical reactions have something in common. They’re all preparing the body for conflict and combat. I bet you’ve even heard the term for it before. It’s called your body’s “fight or flight” response.
Come Out Fighting or Run for the Hills
The fight or flight response is set up to prepare your body for reaction. It wants you to be able to escape from danger (flight), or improve your ability for direct conflict (fight). All of that activity is decided in your brain.
The brain is the command center of your nervous system. It spends all of its life assessing information coming in from the myriad of nerve endings that feed your senses.
So, when you hear a car horn blasting, it’s your auditory nerves that report that info back to your brain. And based on your previous experience with startling honkers, your brain sends back flash-quick messages to the muscles in your legs that tell you to jump back fast, Jack.
Although this reaction takes only a fraction of a second, it’s not automatic. It’s orchestrated by a delicate and vital process called the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal System.
The Talkative Two
The hypothalamus and the pituitary glands are deep in your mid-brain, where some of the oldest parts of brain function occur. This is part of your brain in charge of the things like vision, hearing, movement and even body temperature.
And yap, yap, yap. These guys won’t shut up. These two glands create the chemical communication that triggers the adrenal glands to release stress hormones called corticosteroids. And you might know those babies by their street name, adrenaline.
If the brain is your command center, then adrenaline is your troop of soldiers carrying out the call to arms. It increases blood flow to your muscles, increases your heart rate and raises your blood sugar levels so you have enough energy in your blood for either fight or flight.
I Call Interference
No one wants to deal with those occasional stressors. They just plain get in the way of too many aspects of your normal life like mood, sleep cycles and even your appetite.
- Ever hear of someone losing a night’s sleep because they couldn’t keep their thoughts from racing?
- Or have you ever met a nervous eater?
- How about being cut off in traffic by someone with road rage?
Road rage, nervous eating, racing thoughts. Those are all just other words for stress.
Old Answers for New Stressors
Luckily, stress isn’t a new phenomenon by any means. Our ancient ancestors didn’t have to deal with snarly traffic and partisan politics, but they sure had to dodge a few jaguars in their day, and when they did, they turned to traditional botanical medicines to help.
Possibly the oldest system of recorded traditional medicine, Ayurveda, contains volumes of advice on stress and its challenges, and even though it was written over 5,000 years ago, it gave us wise, real-world advice on everything from diet to defense.
The herbs Ayurveda selected belonged to a specific category of plants called Rasayanas, which aimed to rejuvenate the body and keep the mind full of youthful vigor. We’d call them “anti-aging” herbs today. But they’re not for your wrinkles. They’re for helping you deal with everyday occasional stressors.
So, the next time you have a stressful day, remember the value of real Rasayanas. From this rich, historical subset of herbs, Himalaya created a full line of products aimed at calming the beast within us all.