Advantages of Lifestyle Medicine: Stress Management

In society today, we often experience and hear about tremendous amounts of stress throughout daily life. From constant media stimuli and poor sleeping habits to unhealthy eating patterns and lack of movement, stress can build up in the body and deliver debilitating consequences. This month, our Pivio experts are highlighting how adoption of lifestyle medicine principles – including stress management – can lead to a happier, healthier, and more peaceful life. 

What is Stress?

According to Dr. Charles Abraham, Senior Behavioral Scientist and Health Psychologist: 

“Stress is when you see demands that you think you cannot resolve.” 

This reaction triggers the sympathetic nervous system, which begins its work in the body by delivering an adrenaline release. This release makes the body feel as it if should run away from the stressor, to avoid the issue entirely. The reality of the situation though is that there are healthy coping mechanisms to analyze the stress trigger and develop successful solutions to resolve. By taking the necessary time to analyze the situation and move forward with a viable solution, the body is then told to lower anxiety and apprehensions, in order to conquer the stress trigger completely. 

Are There Consequences with Long-Term Stress? 

Yes, there can be very significant and detrimental consequences as a result of long-term stress. During “fight or flight” responses triggered by stress and the sympathetic nervous system, the body is not appropriately digesting food, and the immune system is not being properly bolstered and supported. Continuing this pattern of stress responses over a long period of time can lead to additional consequences including: 

  • Cardiovascular Problems
  • Stroke 
  • Heart Disease
  • Poor Immune Function 

Dr. Abraham emphasizes just how bad stress is for the body, and that healthy interventions are critical to help the body run in an optimal way. 

How Can We Reduce Chronic Stress? 

There are many ways to reduce chronic stress, and Dr. Abraham outlines a few below: 

  1. Refuse the Demands – this includes changing the situation around the stress trigger (for example, moving a deadline of a work deliverable to eliminate stress around the immediacy of delivery) in order to shift the circumstances in favor of less stress 
  2. Seek Support – if it is not possible to refuse the demand, seeking help with the situation is a great way to reduce stress. In the example of a work deliverable, ask co-workers or teammates for help on the project so that the entirety of the work is not sitting exclusively with one person, therefore generating stress
  3. Set Expectations – being clear about your stress responses and communicating how you feel with others is an excellent way to be transparent about your levels of stress. This helps the community that surrounds you better understand how you are feeling and what demands you may be able to reasonably take on without viewing them as a stress trigger

In Pivio, participants receive incredibly valuable information around the importance of stress management and how to best damper stress responses in the body. As a pillar of lifestyle medicine, stress management is critical to living a happy and healthy life.