Running from Today’s Tigers (Managing Stress)

Stress is a reaction to danger. With this purpose, our body’s reaction was necessary when we lived in the wild and were in danger (like a tiger chasing us).  Unlike our ancestors dealing with dangers in the wild, we have to deal with stressors throughout our days. That regular stress adds up. It may feel like tigers are chasing us but with a few new habits, you can keep your reaction calmer.

According to  Dr. Sears: “During a stress response, such as running from a tiger, your body is in strict survival mode. So it secrets cortisol to rev up your body; other hormones, such as endorphins, which blunt the perception of pain; and prolactin, which suppresses your desire and ability to reproduce. Glucagon, a hormone in the liver, releases sugar. This sends extra fuel throughout the body, especially to the muscles, that you will need to run from the approaching tiger.”

What do our tigers look like today? Maybe it is opening bills, turning on the news, looking at social media, or hearing a text alert. Or something more serious that we have less control over like a loved one with an illness. Subsequently, our bodies enter that being chased by a tiger state.

Because of chronic stress, we can develop serious health conditions. A body under regular stress is prone to premature aging, insulin sensitivity, cancer, increased appetite, weight gain, increased abdominal fat storage, digestive issues, weekend muscles and bones, and decreased memory function. Doing small things regularly throughout the day will result in fewer side effects of stress.

After a stressful period or to prevent unnecessary stress:

  • Faced with a problem, if you can’t change it, try your best to put it out of your head.
  • Focus on solutions and don’t fixate on the problem.
  • Breathing and meditation
  • Exercise or move to release energy.
  • Choose to be around positive people.
  • Try to not turn to food for comfort- if you want something try a cup of caffeine-free tea (caffeine will rev you up more) or nourish your body with a healthy snack.
  • Take a few minutes outside (rain or shine)
  • Do something kind for someone else.
  • Get a good night’s sleep (trouble falling asleep with too many to-do’s…do a brain dump list of all the things right to get them out of your head)
  • Say “No”, we don’t have to accept every offer.

References: Prime Time Health,  William Sears, MD