Stress in the city

I wrote an article a while back for the fantastic Escape the City on What to do about Stress in the City.

From Monday to Friday ‘stressed’ is probably a common description of the average worker in London. And it is not just a word we would use for ourselves when deadlines are fast approaching and we have a busy commute to face and bills to pay when we get home. Just writing the words make me start to fret about my ‘things to do list’ for tomorrow.

Unfortunately stress has also become a sort of adrenaline that many busy London workers live off – it has fast become part of the working culture, and therefore very difficult to escape when we try to switch off. But what does stress really do to you, physically and mentally, and how can it – in the long term – actually kill you?

Firstly stress stimulates the fight or flight reflex, producing adrenalin. This reflex used to be put into practice when we were being chased by wild beasts, not our colleagues with deadlines. So actually our fight or flight is being put into use more often than necessary, and than it should be. This puts severe strain on the heart; as your heart beats faster your blood pressure increases, your arteries constrict and your immune system goes down as your body’s blood all rushes to the vital organs for ‘survival’. When stressed have you ever noticed that you literally cannot think? That is because all the blood has left your brain to be used elsewhere.

As this is happening, your adrenals pour out cortizone. This is released to reduce pain, but in large doses actually poisons the brain, causing memory loss and/or depression. In your other systems, your liver is fast producing glucose for energy, which in high doses can cause diabetes. Your digestive system shuts down, unable to absorb proper nutrients and causing malnutrition.

The body calls on fat reserves to be used as energy. This causes hardening of the arteries and narrowing of vessels, increasing the risk of heart disease.

That is huge amount of activity to take place every single day in the body. And as you can see, this activity is definitely not positive.

When you get stressed what should you do? Take a walk, breathe deeply for 5 minutes, walk up stairs or just take 10 minutes to relax and reflect. Reflexology also helps alleviate symptoms of stress by increasing blood circulation to all the organs in the body, stimulating the body’s own self healing process.

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