Have you been feeling stressed lately?

I’ve definitely heard more talk about stress this week.

In fact, polling company YouGov found stress at its highest levels since their surveys began during the week of 17 November. Hitting heights seen at the start of pandemic. But worryingly, they’re persisting and rising.

So what’s going on inside our bodies when we’re feeling stressed?

Let’s go back in time to our ancestors, the hunter-gatherers. They lived in a hostile environment, surrounded by predators. To deal with this environment our predecessors developed “fight or flight” hormones. Our brains would push these hormones into our blood stream to help us react to danger or take the opportunity to catch a meal.

Fast forward to 2022 and our world has changed and continues to change rapidly. But our bodies haven’t evolved at nearly the same pace. So many of us can easily find those same stress hormones triggered by everyday challenges. And there are a lot of those around at the moment. Price rises or mortgage rates rocketing, personal relationships strained and pressure at work. This can all get the stress hormones flowing.

The hormonal charge of stress is fine in short-bursts. In fact modest stress could actually be good for your health. But regularly firing stress hormones can damage your health. Potentially even threaten your life.

Chronic stress can make you irritable, anxious or depressed. It can cause insomnia and headaches.

During stress your breathing rate can increase. If you suffer from emphysema or asthma this can make your symptoms worse. Increasing stress hormones act to increase your blood pressure and put you more at risk of stroke and heart disease.

We’re living in challenging times.

So it’s time to think about how to protect yourself from developing chronic stress. And there are many ways you can take back control:

- get some exercise

- sleep well (7-8 hours a night)

- moderate your alcohol and caffeine intake

- try to eat healthy

- get together with mates or family

Finally, self-care. I personally love to garden. Research is now telling us that the great outdoors is excellent for your health. If you can get out into nature you’ll see the benefits.

We’re having a tough winter. Stress is rising. So in the run-up to Christmas do look after yourself.

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