Stress in the 21st Century « PT Stef

Stress in the 21st Century

What does modern-day stress look like?

By Stef Philippou - Dip. in PT, CHEK Pro

There seems to be a lot more awareness of stress as it becomes more and more common these days. This understanding and knowledge is great but the fact that we seem to be more stressed and in a constant rush to achieve and action things right away is unfortunately affecting our overall health and well-being.

Stress is when there is an overload on the body which causes certain chemical and hormonal reactions to take place. Cortisol, our stress hormone, is released which then enables us to fight, flight or freeze when encountered with a traumatic situation or event.

This natural and necessary release of hormones and chemicals helps us to deal with what is taking place. If these chemicals and hormones are released and then removed from the body appropriately, we are then able to carry on living a healthy balanced life. There becomes an issue however when cortisol levels remain high and active in our body for long periods without a break and efficient time to recover. 

Back in the day we used to have to run away or fight off dangerous animals, as well as people from other tribes. Between these stressful events, we were able to rest and recover, which balanced our hormone levels. Most of the day was spent resting, relaxing, playing, being creative and having fun, with only about five to six hours hunting and gathering. 

This rejuvenation time was made possible by the fact that we had a limited number of constant stressors in our lives. Unless we fell sick to a certain disease and did not have adequate treatment or therapy to recover and regain full health again, which unfortunately meant huge stress on the body. 

Nowadays we are bombarded with many different types of stress. These include - chemical, electromagnetic, physical, nutritional, psychic/mental/emotional. They can be ongoing over long periods leading to long term chronic stress that leaves us feeling tired, wired and overwhelmed - both mentally and physically.  

A lot of modern-day diseases can be caused by years of chronic stress and inflammation building up and accumulating over time. Think of certain cancers, as well as degeneration diseases such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, which can be caused by lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol and inactivity. Different to other diseases such as polio and measles that are contracted from infections, viruses or bacteria.

The good thing about most chronic diseases is that they can be affected by how we live our lives and how much constant stress we are putting ourselves under. This does not mean that stress is not necessary in our lives. Stress is important and has helped us to survive and thrive as a civilization. It is needed and helps us to live better, and longer. The issue is when stress is happening all the time and coming from many different sources, so the body cannot tolerate it anymore and so starts to break down.

So, what does modern-day stress look like?

Stress in the 21st century includes physical stress such as poor posture and bad body positioning. Mainly due to sitting down a lot and staring at a screen for hours on end. Exercising too much without enough time to recover will also cause physical stress on the body. 

Other types include chemical stress. From toxins and chemicals in beauty products, pesticides and insecticides on food, as well as new furniture and products in our homes, cars and offices releasing strong toxic gases. 

Electromagnetic stress comes from constantly being engaged and fixed to electronic devices. Blue light emitted from screens on computers, televisions, mobile phones and tablets often keeps us awake at night way longer than we should be. 

Poor quality foods eaten at the wrong times and in the incorrect portion sizes and macronutrient ratios (carbohydrates, fat and proteins) will produce nutritional stress and leave us short of much-needed nutrients to function and perform optimally.

Psychic, mental and emotional stress is often high due to wanting and needing to fit in, have a lot of friends, and be popular and famous like a celebrity or influencer. Being active online and having a social media presence can be very stressful. This comes from constant pressure based on how many likes we get, what people are saying about us, and always trying to look perfect on a screen to our audience and followers. Which is extremely difficult to do and of course vastly different to how we look normally in the real world.

What can we do to help with all of this modern-day stress?

Let’s face it, most of these new stressors are not going away anytime soon and are now a part of our lives, as well as our children’s lives too. We should aim to embrace them, use them for the good that they can do and attempt to live with them in a healthy and balanced way. 

Some forms of stress, such as toxic chemicals and unhealthy damaged food should be avoided altogether. Other modern-day stressors such as electromagnetic (technology overuse), physical (exercising too much or little, sitting down for long periods) and psychic/mental/emotional (constant pressure to fit in and be accepted - in person or virtually) need to be managed and controlled daily. 

Technology and being online is important so we can stay up to date with what is happening in the world and connect with people and groups that just wouldn’t be possible otherwise. The key is finding that very fine line and balance of what is ideal. Where too much can cause stress from overuse, and not enough means falling behind the current times that we live in.

Every day make time for yourself. That could be just on your own or with people that make you feel positive and uplifted. This time is not to do anything specific or to achieve any goal set by you or anyone else. For 20-60 minutes, or whatever time you can manage, do whatever you want that will make you feel happy, young and free without any feelings of guilt, anxiety or irritation. 

It could be something as simple as painting or drawing, playing a musical instrument, going for a walk, swim, or bike ride, playing with your children, reading a novel or storybook, meeting up with or speaking to a friend on the phone (someone calm, relaxed and not stressed out themselves), or just stretching and mobilising your body. Anything that brings you into a peaceful and tranquil state and helps you to bring energy and vitality back into your body and mind. 

Making this part of your normal daily routine, just like brushing your teeth or having breakfast, lunch or dinner, will help you to unwind, de-stress and live a healthier, happier, longer and overall more balanced enjoyable life.

14th June 2021