Most of us know that we need to take care of ourselves to feel good, to manage stress and to be healthy. We know that we need downtime from the stresses of life and all that that entails. Knowing we need to do these things and actually doing them, are two very different things…as we all know. Right? So, maybe the question is, why does it really matter that we manage our stress and how bad is it for you, really?
When our bodies are in stress-mode, our stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, kick butt into gear. For instance, if we are getting chased by a bear, the adrenals kick in to produce adrenaline, which in turn triggers the release of cortisol into the bloodstream. We are now in fight or flight-mode to help us get away from the bear (you’re not actually supposed to run from a bear, but that’s another blog entirely). Hopefully you get the picture.
When this happens, our bodies go into survival mode where blood is moved into the muscles and away from the vital organs in order for us to ‘take flight’. Unfortunately, paying bills, unemployment, school, work, famiy issues, etc. all trigger the same stress response in your body as getting chased by a bear. So our bodies are constantly swimming in these increased hormone levels making our hearts pound, muscles tense and stomach constantly in knots. We have a hard time finding the off switch. This has become the new ‘normal’ for most of us in our over-worked, over-stressed society, that we don’t even realize it.
Being in this state produces a chronic situation for our bodies and that’s when problems can arise. The immune system can shut down, inflammation is constant, white blood cells are reduced and now we’re more susceptible to disease.
The GOOD news is that oxytocin, another hormone, can come to our rescue and has shown to reduce this stress response by helping the blood vessels relax, helping us to feel good and relaxed as well. How do I get more oxytocin, you ask? We can get more oxytocin flowing by caring for others and social interaction. It is sometimes called the “cuddle hormone”. Who doesn’t love to cuddle?? When we are around those we love, serving others, doing things we love, we are usually happy beings. When we are in happy-mode, there is no room for stress-mode. They cannot coexist.
Taking a little (or a lot) of self-care for oneself is not a selfish thing. It’s exactly the opposite. When we take care of ourselves, we are better moms, dads, sisters, friends and humans. What have you been allowing yourself to stress about lately? What one change can you make today to find more oxytocin and happy in your life? Find someone to cuddle up with and enjoy!
Today is the youngest you’ll ever be.