Historically, mammals have used stress to get out of potentially dangerous situations. When you face off with a predator in the middle of the jungle, that fight or flight instinct characterized by blood rushing to your muscles, hyper-awareness and an extreme adrenaline rush, was a method of ensuring the safety of our ancestors, which many animals in the wild still use for survival today. In our modern-day concrete jungle, however, it is not as necessary to utilize these momentary survival techniques. How is it, then, that we are so stressed out on a daily basis? Most of our lives revolve around the constant bombardment of stressors. This encompasses many situations we may experience daily: the rush hour traffic after a long day, or the incessant beeping of your cellphone. To understand how we can manage stress better, let’s differentiate the different types of stress.
In his book, “Conquering Cultural Stress: The Ultimate Guide to Anti-Aging and Happiness” Dr. Murad breaks down stress into three categories: acute stress, episodic acute stress and chronic stress.
This stress is the short-term, most common type of stress. It is experienced by most people several times a year. It can come from narrowly escaping a car crash, or preparing for an important interview. This stress is a direct link to the stress of survival we have faced as a species, which can help us survive today. However, when this stress is applied to our bodies on a regular basis, it can wear down our potential response to danger, rendering it ineffectual.
Episodic Acute Stress:
This stress happens to people who live in a chaotic environment. Have you ever had so much to do that you jump from task to task, but have nothing to show for it at the end of the day? This stress accompanies that type of lifestyle and is entirely self-afflicted, as we do not take enough time to focus on one thing at a time, leading to an extreme decrease in production.
This stress is characterized by long-term problems, such as a dead-end job, a slowly sinking relationship or even our relationship with the scale! Sometimes we feel this stress keenly, but on other days it is at the back of our minds; still there, persisting on putting a damper on our happiest days, so that we cannot see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. People who suffer from this stress are almost always irritable, grumpy and generally have a very pessimistic outlook on life.
3 toddler-inspired techniques to combat stress:
: All situations are temporary. Don’t over-stress yourself by worrying about the little things. Take the time you need to fix what you can, but then let go when it is out of your hands. Take deep breaths before you speak to avoid saying something you’ll regret!
Enjoy healthy, home-cooked meals on a regular basis. Try new, delicious recipes with friends and family, and don’t forget to treat yourself with dessert! Eat 3-5 meals during the day to keep up your energy, and stay away from sodium-rich, empty snacks.
Turn off all electronics, block out any noise with earplugs, and truly relax. Your body needs the time during the night to restore its levels back to full capacity. Take at least 30 minutes before bedtime to unwind with a warm, scented bath or cuddle up with your cat for some therapeutic purring.
Article by Howard Murad, M.D., FAAD, a world renowned skincare expert and founder of the Inclusive Health movement. Read more about Dr. Murad.