Long-term stress can be quite dangerous. Not only does it cause significant mental and emotional distress, but it can also have some severe effects on your physical health, as well. Cortisol is the hormone released when we are under any type of stress, whether it’s acute or long-term.
However, when we are stressed for an extended period of time, the adrenal glands that are responsible for producing cortisol eventually cannot keep up. This is known as adrenal fatigue, which can leave you feeling extraordinarily exhausted and unwell.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to heal your adrenal fatigue and reverse the effects of long-term stress.
Get some Much-Needed Rest
When we feel as though our to-do list is endless and we are notably stressed, the last thing we prioritize is rest. However, if you’re feeling burnt out, your body is probably begging you for some rest and recovery. When we get enough rest (and sleep!), our body can switch from the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is our stress response system, to the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which allows our body to recover.
Focus on your Breathing
The PNS and SNS are both parts of our autonomic nervous system, meaning that we don’t have much or any control over these functions. However, our breathing is one thing we can control, even though we don’t have to consciously think about it to do it. When we are feeling stressed or anxious, our breathing often becomes shallow and rapid, signaling to our body that we are stressed. This, in turn, releases more cortisol. Spend at least a few minutes each day to focus on your breathing and take slow, deep breaths. This will signal to your body that there is no danger, and your body will slowly begin to recover from the effects of long-term stress.
This is a given— the most effective way to reverse the effects of stress is to de-stress. Take time to enjoy your life. Do things that make you laugh, spend time with people that make you happy, read books that have been on your list for ages. Doing something you enjoy is crucial to your overall wellbeing. Even if you’re going through a tough time, there can always be moments of joy and laughter that can help you to de-stress and feel good. As the famous quote goes, “laughter is the best medicine.”
Practice Yoga or Meditation
Other extremely effective ways to reduce your stress levels are yoga or meditation. First, this practice greatly focuses on deep breathing
techniques, which, as we have already discussed, are extremely important for shifting your body into the PNS state. Meditating can also shift your mindset and help you focus on things you are grateful for instead of all the stressful and bad things going on in your life. You can also create a gratitude journal and take time daily to reflect on the positive things. This simple shift in mindset can be enough to change the way you react to everyday stressors completely.