On Being a Twenty First Century Young Adult
I’m a textbook example of a twenty first century young adult. I live my life on-the-go, juggling a hectic forty hour work week, family responsibilities, an education and, on the weekends, a social life. It’s no wonder I’m constantly stressed! Sometimes, I actually find stress to be somewhat of a beneficial force that fuels me through all-nighters and public speaking engagements. But, more often than not, stress feels toxic - literally. The morning after a particularly stressful day, I almost always feel a bit ill. Often, it takes me a couple of days to go back to feeling like my normal, active and engaged self.
Why is it that, as we have gotten older, we start getting sick after the last final or that major presentation? Well, science can provide an answer. When we feel stressed, we go into “fight or flight” mode and our pituitary gland sends signals throughout the body to increase the amount of hormones released in our bloodstream. In response to the brain’s signal, our adrenal gland releases cortisol and adrenaline to increase strength and agility while also speeding up our reaction time.
In short term situations, this can push us to work harder or avoid dangerous situations. But, on the flip side, when the body releases more hormone than usual, our whole equilibrium is thrown off. If this process continues at a constant level due to continual and repetitive stress, our body never fully recovers and rests. Some of the short term side effects of constant stress include decreased stomach acids (which slows the metabolism and makes us more prone to illness), increased blood pressure, upset stomach, and chest pain. In the long term, stress is a major contributing factor to obesity, cancer, depression, heart disease, lung ailments, cirrhosis of the liver and autoimmune diseases.
Fortunately, there are steps we can take to manage stress effectively. It’s what we have heard – oh, so many times before: eating a healthy diet, sleeping eight hours a night, meditating, and exercise. Half an hour of yoga or stretching in the mornings drastically increases the quality of our day and helps us get through some of the most anxiety-provoking situations.
What steps do you take to manage stress? Sound off in the comments section below!