Toxic Stress

Poison sign

We all try to manage our time and our schedules to manage getting everything done. As a result of your efforts, sometimes you even open new time slots in your schedule because you’re so efficient, and you’ll use those open slots to justify taking on more work, more responsibilities, and ultimately, more stress.

More stress hardly sounds like a good idea.

Most times it’s difficult to determine when you’re adding more stress and crossing your threshold capacity for it. After all, just one more thing can’t really hurt. You technically have the time—just look at the hour or so you have open on Friday! Many people constantly justify taking on more tasks because they can, technically, do it. But it’s important to learn to say no, even if you have no other reason beyond thinking the new task will add unnecessarily to your stress level. Properly managing your stress isn’t just a luxury; it’s a life necessity.

When you are under stress, your body releases stress hormones to regulate your internal state to accommodate your external circumstances. Two main stress hormones are adrenaline and cortisol. When they’re released into your blood stream, they’re doing good work: they increase your sensitivity to details, noise, and other information input so you can manage difficult situations. If you’re in fight-or-flight mode, you need all the information you can get to ensure your survival.

But running in survival mode isn’t supposed to be a ground state of being. Four-wheel drive helps your vehicle manage difficult terrain, but if you’re always using it—even on smooth, dry roads—some of your car’s systems will start deteriorating. Pumping your body full of stress hormones too often or for too long can also lead to unpleasant deterioration in your body’s systems. In sufficient amounts, your own hormones have toxic results on your body.

Extended periods of elevated adrenaline levels can lead to irregular heart rhythms, increased anxiety, headache, tremor, and other health issues. Too much cortisol can weaken your immune system, reduce bone formation (increasing chances for osteoporosis and other bone-related issues), and damage the cells in your hippocampus (part of your brain that deals with memory and spatial navigation).

If your heart is weak and your memory’s failing, how are you going to manage all the extra work you’ve piled on yourself?

So next time your stellar time-management skills open up a spare window of time, defend it and don’t let any more stress float in on the breeze. You deserve a detox session—your body will thank you.

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