How to Manage Stress and Live Longer

We all know the stress monster. It’s visited each of us at least once during our life time. You know, the times where you have too much to do, too many things you’re worried about, too many things on the to do list, business worries, family worries, the ‘need’ to have a drink when you get home every ,single, night. There seems to be more stress than we can manage and no way to get away from it. Wait, is that really true? Let’s look into it more.

A stress response comes from either a real or perceived threat. A real threat could be someone with a knife running towards you or encountering a really large wild animal. Once we have seen the threat, our bodies react to keep us alive. This activates our fight or flight response (there are others, but for simplicity I’ll stick with these). The fight or flight response is also known as the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). Physiologically our body responds by up regulating many pathways that allow an immediate physical reaction. Our adrenal glands start by pumping adrenaline, among other hormones, into our blood stream which creates reactions including:

    • Heart rate speeding up
    • Breathing speeding up and becoming shallow
    • Digestions stopping
    • Constriction of blood vessels in some parts of the body (ie. stomach, intestines)
    • Dilation in other parts (ie. muscles)

The body is then ready to fight for survival, or run for survival. Once the threat is over or gone, our body will start to down regulate these pathways and come back to homeostasis, or balance. When the body is in homeostasis, it can be referred to as rest and digest, it engages the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). Both SNS and PNS are important for survival, health, wellbeing and, therefore, life.

Modern lifestyles also create a number of perceived threats or stressors. Perceived threats that will still elicit a stress response include responding immediately to emails on our phones, social media, annoying people who work in our offices, annoying people on the road, balancing our income and expenditure, building our business to generate income, kids fighting, etc. For those that are carers, whether for special needs kids, adults with cancer, parents with Alzheimer’s, looking after our loved ones will often elicit a stress response in us as well. While on the face it these situations don’t appear a threat, we still worry and ‘manage’ them as we can’t avoid them. So our body will still generate a stress response.

Our stress response really is individual. What one person considers a stressful situation may not even register with another. One situation will have a different affect on different people. A cardiologist told me that being confronted with someone having a heart attack wouldn’t stress him, however, hearing his kids crying does. I’m sure that isn’t the same for everyone, however, it gave a great understanding of differences we have as individuals. As another example, the 5000 odd emails that are notified on my phone that are unread clearly doesn’t stress me, but for many it does.

Long term, when the body is constantly engaged in the SNS, or fight or flight mode, health markers will start to suffer. Inflammation will rise, food intolerances may increase, adrenal and thyroid issues will start to show through cortisol dysregulation, insulin resistance can rise, sleep can decrease, fatigue can increase and body fat often increases. You may only be functioning at 80% of what you normally do. Overtime, your body may decide that this is the new norm and over time you will forget what it is like to function at 100%.

As the long term stress response wreaks havoc in our body, our gut and immune system have a hard time trying to keep up. Without an optimal immune system, diseases have the opportunity to proliferate. There are many diseases that are linked to high stress:

    • Anxiety and panic attacks.
    • Asthma, allergies and skin conditions.
    • Autoimmune conditions –
    • Crohns, Colitis, Arthritis, etc
    • Cancer.
    • Chronic Fatigue.
    • Constipation, IBS.
    • Depression and suicide.
    • Head aches.
    • Heart disease.
    • High cholesterol.
    • Joint pain.
    • Sleep disturbances.
    • Stroke.
    • Ulcers.

These are only some of them. Avoiding the stress response, and avoiding these diseases, is what will ultimately lead to a longer life.

So how do we manage stress and live longer?

Let’s break it down into steps that we can action:

    1. Keep a stress journal for a week or two to understand what your triggers are that create a stress response for you.
    2. Rate the triggers or events as either avoidable or unavoidable. Challenge yourself with this step.
    3. Eliminate the avoidable ones.
    4. Learn how to manage the unavoidable ones.

While there are many ways to manage unavoidable issues, meditation is a proven method that will help. Meditation will enable the body to move from SNS dominance into PNS dominance which will calm and help the body to reach homeostasis. The more time the body spends in PNS, the less likely disease is to take hold and hence a longer life.

What would a longer life look like to you? More time with family, sharing experiences with your kids, maybe more time to be happy. What you do with the extra time is completely up to you.

If stress management and a longer life is for you, contact Wendy at Renew Wellbeing and Fitness to learn more.


Brighton East, Victoria, Australia, 3187


Monday – Saturday
By appointment only


+613 407 554 006

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