If general stomach pain, burning sensations and indigestion give you sleepless nights or interfere with your day-to-day life. Or you’re diagnosed with gastritis, peptic or duodenal ulcers. Then you’d want to know what’s at the root of it, right?
Can you relate?
Until recently, listed amongst commonly named causes of these symptoms were anti-inflammatory medication, stomach bacteria H. pylori, smoking and inherent predisposition. The latest research though uncovers the logical but unproven until now, role of stress as a risk factor for stomach ulcers.
I know, you can say you knew it all along, anyway. And on this instance, scientific evidence nicely aligned with the conventional wisdom. That’s not always the case.
“Stress is the feeling of being under too much mental or emotional pressure, and pressure turns into stress when you feel unable to cope.” NHS
You may have noticed that different people are able to tolerate vastly different levels of mental or emotional stress. Stress also differs in its intensity.
Traumatic life events
They often impossible to foresee and therefore avoid. Disaster can strike suddenly unpredictably and is part and parcel of life’s random and uncertain nature. Our body’s functioning, jerked out of stable balance (homeostasis), results in many adverse consequences, including stomach ulcers. As after the Hanshin-Awaji earthquake a significant increase in the number of people with stomach ulcers was observed in Japan in 1995. Most of us though are fortunate enough only to learn about experiences of that intensity by reading or hearing about them.
Minor day-to-day stress
What you most probably are battling with are the small, but never-ending, stress factors of increasingly speedy daily life. They don’t present danger per se. However they put us in a state of perpetual, immutable alert to potential threats to our status or livelihood. You feel as if you are on edge all the time, not being able to fully relax and let go.
This type of stress is also a contributing factor to stomach ulcers. Known as chronic stress, it brings constant tension to our internal experience of life. It changes the default mode of our immune system. This, in the long run affects your susceptibility to common colds and other infections including H. pylori. In addition, a rarely mentioned consequence is an impact on your repair system or how quickly ulcers (or other wounds) heal in the stomach.
What can you do to reduce stress?
1. Change perspective
Apparently, what makes a situation stressful is our perception of it. It’s our judgement that leads to an emotional response. A habit of putting a negative spin on things could become a source of chronic stress. In essence, stress is our reaction to a situation, not the situation itself. Beginning to notice how you react to daily happenings is a good start. With patience and perseverance you can relearn to perceive minor life events as minor.
2. Replace rumination
Do you find yourself dwelling on a thought? creating an imaginary story in your mind? The thought may come out of the blue, or is sparked by a seemingly insignificant event or an observation. The story in your head however spins to an unimaginable proportions. Now, it feels threatening and very real. Although it’s quite normal for the human mind to behave in this way, it’s also a wasteful way to use your brain energy.
“If you’re thinking stressful thoughts for the whole day then those part of your brain are going to get larger and the other parts of the brain will deteriorate.” Jo Marchant, science journalist and author.
What you practice, you get better at, don’t you? This applies to your thinking too. If you worry on a daily basis, then, in time you’ll get more adept at worrying. Making an effort to think positive or, at least concentrating on neutral thoughts, will take the place of thinking negatively.
3. Make space for rewarding experience
I was brought up to believe strongly that a reward is something I must work hard and long for. It’s definitely not a daily or weekly occurrence. This type of work ethic is proven to be flawed. It leads to burnouts, negative thoughts, depression and mental health issues. The latter is now elevated to a public health problem in our society. In fact doing something rewarding/pleasant should be done pretty much daily. Giving your body time to relax, switch off, being in a positive mood increases productivity, resilience and wellbeing. Reward yourself with allocating time to being active (any form that you enjoy), spending time with your family and with friends, getting enough sleep and doing something that has no apparent purpose, like playing a sport/a game.
Over to you
Can you relate to feeling stressed all the time? Or perhaps you’ve found an effective way to relax and become resilient to the challenges of the fast-pacing life? Your voice is the only thing missing from this post. Please leave a comment. Let me know.
P.S. Pass it on
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