Updated: Nov 23, 2019
Living under constant stress increases cortisol which causes the amygdala to increase in size (emotional center of the brain responsible for the fight, flight or freeze response and the feeling processor to the body) as the prefrontal cortex decreases (responsible for personality traits). I like to reference this process when discussing constant stress as how it can rob you of enjoying your life... even when you have acquired what you used to dream of. It’s why achieving success alone does not decrease stress and why joy is left to be pushed the road. Common phrases I hear are: If I get this, then I will be happy. When this person does this, then I can relax.
These are co-dependent responses (something out of your control) which do not work in achieving lasting joy... the sense of peace during good and difficult times.
Sleepless nights, avoiding people or places, inability to relax, or a nagging unexplained persistent fear are common symptoms. So how can a person reduce stress?
Meditation and mindfulness are powerful tools in learning how to sit with the uncomfortable... how to sit in the unease. This practice allows for accepting and not responding to strong internal emotions. Emotions are alerts to help you understand what is helping or hurting you, but feelings don’t necessarily need an action to be taken in the moment. Expert meditators have much more control over how they respond to stressful triggers which allows them to be intentional in their responses.
Quality of life can significantly be enhanced by talking with someone who can help you identify your stress triggers, move you through the origin and can teach ways for you to take control of your environment.
By Lauren Douglass
Learn more about The 5 Major Anxiety Disorders: