One of the things I don’t like about this time of year is the heightened stress factor the holidays bring. The other day I was beeped at just as the light changed to green – as if that extra second of waiting made a difference.
Stress is “in the air,” especially this time of year.
In fact, it’s epidemic in our country. According to the American Institute of Stress, 75% of all doctor and hospital visits are stress-related.
That’s crazy! Living in a constant state of stress is not only killing us, it’s preventing us from enjoying life. Simple pleasures get snatched away in our effort to do more, get more, and be more.
Luckily I have found an antidote. When it comes to stress, I often say gratitude is my BFF. Let me explain.
When I start to feel anxious, overtired, or angry, that’s usually a trigger for me to slow down, take a breath and ask myself,
“Am I operating in a state of fear and stress,
or am I operating in a state of
love and gratitude?”
If fear and stress are the culprits, I know I how to turn things around. I simply put myself in an immediate state of gratitude by thinking of a few things I am grateful for and allowing myself to really feel the love those things bring to my life. I instantly feel better.
Here’s the science that explains why this happens:
- When you are stressed, your blood vessels constrict and less oxygen gets delivered to your brain and other organs. You may experience brain fog, headaches, stomach issues, fatigue or other symptoms. However, when you engage in thoughts of gratitude, your heart rhythms become smooth and as a result you think more clearly, have more energy, and make better decisions regarding your health and happiness. You become better able to avoid binge eating, drinking or other damaging behaviors that stress can trigger.
- When you are stressed, your cortisol levels increase. Excess cortisol can lead to inflammation which can lead to discomfort and “dis-ease.” Engaging in thoughts of gratitude, however, lowers cortisol by 23% and helps your body rebalance after stressful situations, allowing you to feel more relaxed and more comfortable.
- Fear and worry can overcome your mood. But thinking of something you are grateful for activates the frontal region of your brain which is responsible for releasing serotonin and dopamine – your body’s natural mood enhancers – and voila, you feel better!
So the next time you feel stressed, try focusing on something you are grateful for and see what happens. Remember to focus on the feeling, not just the thought.
Feeling stressed right now? Visit my Facebook page and post something you are grateful for or leave a comment below.