Is Work Stress Causing Inflammation in Your Body?
Funny story (well, not really), I was under stress while writing this article. I had limited time and was multitasking (yes – I was aware of the irony) – answering calls, having breakfast and trying to keep my list of to-dos in mind. I am also working on healing a back injury (bulged disc) and two important relationships. The longer I sit, the more uncomfortable I get. The more emotional labor I put into the relationships, the more tired and achy I get.
As I was learning about the connection between stress and inflammation in the body, I realized that if I continue the way I’m going, what should have been a 4-5 week recovery, will continue to stretch to an indefinite (chronic) process of managing my physical pain. So this article was written in response to a personal issue that probably resonates with most high functioning, driven individuals. If you’re reading my blog – that means you. So, is work or life stress causing inflammation in YOUR body?
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is typically thought of as the body’s primary response to physical injury or infection (the affected area can be tender, painful, swollen, red and/or show other symptoms). However, there is now substantial evidence that psychological stress can trigger significant increases in inflammatory activity. I’ve been experiencing this myself. It’s clear that I will not be able to rehabilitate my inflamed back until I heal the emotional stress I am under.
Sadly, stress has been downplayed for ages now. Psychology is thriving, and people still refuse to realize that stress is dangerous. This is why it’s important to question if your job’s positives are outweighing the negatives. Workplace stress is psychological and if you notice you’re suffering from it early, the effects won’t have time to develop into something more serious.
Signs That Your Work is Stressing You Out
- Bad Mood, Negative Feelings and Depression – when you’re feeling negative, your mind is telling you that you deserve more. If all you do is respond to tasks without being able to showcase your skills, you create unfulfilled expectations (of being in a normal environment where people can acknowledge you). Recognize these feelings and talk to someone.
- Increased Sensitivity and Aggression – when you’re under a lot of pressure, getting sh*t done is more important than anything else, including being nice to people. Your mind just doesn’t have the energy to control your emotions. Even if you are under pressure, you can see yourself being nasty. Use the power of deep breathing when you catch yourself going off the rails. Following the golden rule isn’t always easy but it is always worth your while. Taking 5 deep breaths takes less than a minute and you can do it anywhere. Who knows, you may even develop a meditation practice because it feels so good!
- Loss of Motivation – to have a constant flow of motivation, you need to be able to conquer problems. Thinking on your feet and putting out fires all day is exhausting on it’s own. Add to that a heavy work load and long hours and you’re sure to lose your motivation. If you have a mentor, this is a great time to seek guidance from her. If not, find a person you trust to speak freely with. Sometimes, getting all the stuff in our head out verbally helps us to think more creatively and find solutions. Come back to your “why”. Restart from a place of inspiration to get yourself back on track.
- Poor Memory – When you’re living under constant stress in your workplace, you tend to overthink more and sleep less. A good memory is directly related to sleeping well and having a balanced life. In order to create balance, try writing a list of “To-Dos” at the end of your work day that need your immediate attention when you’re back the next morning. Practice letting that list live in your office and not in your head. After all, you can’t do anything about those things until tomorrow anyway. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. It energizes you and also helps you sleep better. Create a sleep routine that helps you unwind so you sleep deep. It’s amazing what a rested brain can conquer!
- Bad Eating Habits – I’ll be honest, as healthy and mindfully as I try to eat, this one gets me when I’m super stressed. I totally get how breaking up the day with some delicious comfort can feel soothing. By working long hours and dealing with very difficult tasks, your eating will take a hit. Eating fast food, eating too many sweets to regain energy or plain skipping meals are all major problems. If you can’t calm down or regulate your situation at work right away, fight it. At the beginning of the week, prepare healthy meals and bring them to work each day. Healthy food will bring you energy, and you will be able to do more. Does that feel too daunting? One of my favorite fast foods is my nutrient dense shake. Even when I don’t have time to shop and cook (or even go out to eat), I know I’m getting my organic veggies, protein and carbs to keep me going. This one’s my favorite.
Large bodies of evidence indicate that stress can activate inflammatory response in the brain as well as in the body. Americans spend more time in their work environment than any other. Work related stress is a problem that can be identified and repaired. Be on the lookout for the warning signs above. Use the tips I mentioned to focus on your physical, emotional and nutritional needs in order to keep stress at bay. If you are inflamed, check out this article for simple nutritional tips to minimize your inflammation.
If you are stressed and looking for relief, a supplement that I find very effective is CBD Oil. There is plenty of scientific evidence that show how CBD can alleviate stress, inflammation and pain (among other symptoms). When I first starting using it, I noticed that things that used to turn me off just stopped bothering me so much. I was able to sleep deeply AND I became a much calmer person. When I got injured, I was so overwhelmed with pain and frustration that I steered away from my healthy habits. Once I re-centered myself and started to get back to drinking lots of water, incorporating my nutrition shakes, breathing exercises and my CBD oil (among other recommendations from my doctor), I started to feel like my normal self again. I let go of the negative feelings and thoughts I was holding on to and I was able to relax again. If you are interested in trying CBD, this one is my favorite and you can order it HERE.
Please seek professional help if your stress is causing severe depression or anxiety. It may just be time to make a professional change.