How Your Fast-Paced Life Can Kill You: The Physical Effects of Stress
Have you ever stopped long enough to ask yourself why does it feel like I am always in a hurry? Where are we racing to and why? How did we get ourselves into this situation in the first place? Will it ever stop or even slow down?
The cliché answer is the best answer: If we make the Time. More specifically, our relationship with time.
I am guilty myself of living the fast paced life and I also recognize the grueling consequences it often takes when I do not take the time to notice and slow down.
There is good news: we can find ways to slow things down or at the very least, counter the negative impact of life in the fast lane.
So many individuals today are attempting to navigate the Space Age with a more traditional mentality. This creates an information overload, urbanization, manmade substances and chemicals, and of course, speed, speed, speed. According to some estimates, our pace of life has increased between 10 and 20 percent in the past two decades. The fast-paced life not only costs us sleep, attention span, and far too many missed experiences. It can also kill us.
Before the Industrial Age, humans were living more in synchronicity with earth’s natural rhythms. Yes, the advent and spread of agriculture impacted our perception of time but it was the introduction of machines—what we now call “technology”—that shifted everything dramatically.
In the past half-century, the triple threat of television, computers, and cell phones elevated things to a point at which time has often become our enemy. We have disconnected from our natural rhythms and surrendered ourselves to a culture of multi-tasking, deadlines, and the almighty goal of productivity.
Our Stone Age physiology is not thrilled with these developments and the ensuing stress is taking its toll. Our minds and our bodies are toiling under the minute-by-minute assault of modernity. Therefore, chronic mental and physical illness is increasingly common. As an example, let’s contemplate the role of cortisol in our bodies.
We are designed to deal with stress. Stone Age stress. When faced with a stalking sabertooth tiger, we kicked into fight-or-flight mode. Among many things, this means a release of our primary stress hormone, cortisol which helps out by increasing glucose in our bloodstream and enabling our brains to use it efficiently, curbing non-essential functions (a.g. suppresses the digestive system), and preparing substances that repair tissues.
Today’s stress might appear in the guise of an ugly social media flame war, but your body still responds as it evolved to do; with fight-or-flight, cortisol, and so on. If this type of non-lethal stress becomes chronic, it exposes your body to a steady supply of cortisol and other stress hormones. The negative implications of this may include:
- Anxiety and depression
- Weight gain
- Sleep and digestive disturbances
- Impairment of concentration and memory
- Heart disease
Unless we learn to cope with or fully remove stressors, this persistent state of high alert can be debilitating or even fatal. To follow are five ways to ease your foot off of life’s gas pedal:
- Slow down. Yes, the obvious advice… this means slow down when eating, walking, talking, and every other way possible. Practice mindfulness in even the most basic of acts.
- Single task. Studies have shown that multi-tasking is overrated. Efficiency suffers, and more importantly, we voluntarily add more stress to our lives.
- Disconnect. Step away from the computer. Power down the smartphone. Hide the TV remote, if you must. Give yourself a time-out, as often as possible.
- Reconnect with nature. We didn’t evolve to lose contact with the wind, soil, sun, grass, rivers, and other earthly travelers. Try keeping a daily journal to monitor the inside-time to outside-time ratio in your life. Adjust accordingly.
- Mandatory time for yourself. Taking time for yourself is like recharging your batteries. Taking this time will look different for most people. Whether it is exercising or meditating or engaging in a hobby taking the time to care for your self will certainly help to improve the quality of life!