Feeling Stressed Out? You Could Be Hungry, Tired, or Sick
By Dr. Erin Olivo
January 01, 2006
On the most basic level, all emotions are experienced in the body. We might notice stress by how we feel emotionally or by what we are thinking, but there is also something happening physiologically in your body, too. How well we are taking care of our body will have a major impact on how we experience our stressful emotions.
If you are hungry, tired or sick, you are much more vulnerable to stressful events. Think back to the last time you had a bad headache and got stuck in traffic. Weren't you more on edge? Did you want to scream at the guy in front of you for talking on his cell phone?
We all have a certain amount of stress in our lives, but if we keep our bodies in good physical condition, we can increase the capacity for how much stress we can experience before it becomes a problem. What does this mean exactly? It means living as balanced of a life as we can.
Just like our mothers always told us, we need to get enough sleep, we need to eat a balanced diet, we need to exercise regularly and we need to go to the doctor when we aren't feeling well.
When you don't get enough sleep, your body produces extra stress hormones, making you more vulnerable to stress. But too much sleep can also cause problems. The key is to get balanced sleep, which for most people means, on average, about eight hours a night.
Not eating enough can cause moodiness and irritability. And skipping breakfast is one of the most common reasons for dips in blood sugar and midmorning crankiness!
Exercise is one of the best stress relievers. Not only does exercise lead to greater muscle relaxation and increased production of antistress chemicals, research also shows that people who are physically fit exhibit less extreme physiological responses to stress. This means they are less likely to experience the health problems linked with chronic stress.
Multitasking—keeping a million balls in the air—this is the sign of a successful person, right? Wrong! Productivity and sense of well-being decrease when we have a scattered focus. In addition, when we are overburdened by details it is harder to be present in the moment, making it harder to connect with people and feel supported.
There are inherent rewards to having a single-minded focus. Our attention, sense of well-being, concentration, memory and productivity are all improved. Slowing down and taking in one thing at a time gives us the space we need to respond to stress, rather than merely reacting to it. We can use techniques such as meditation to cultivate this single-pointed focus.
The next time you realize that you are feeling scattered and overwhelmed, take a moment to just breathe and notice the sensation.
With our busy schedules, we often don't take the time to attend to the regular maintenance of our bodies. Seeing your doctor and dentist for regular checkups is important. Taking time out from your schedule when you aren't feeling well is another important self-care practice. All too often we push ourselves to keep going even when our body is telling us to sit still. When our bodies don't feel well, we also are much more likely to feel bad emotionally.