Stress is Serious – The death of a loved one can cause acute stress, weakening your immunity and triggering flare-ups of migraines, irritable bowel syndrome and arthritis.
When you are under stress the arteries in your heart may narrow raising your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Chronic stress can damage your short term memory by reducing gray matter. Pain and spasms in your neck and back are caused by muscles under stress and tensing up. Also, stress slows the GI tract’s movement and digestive process leading to pain, gas or diarrhea.
That’s the insidious thing about stress: it infiltrates our bodies even as our hearts are grieving. And it’s ever-present so if it’s left untreated it can lead to serious ills, including heart disease, depression, anxiety and diabetes. Uncontrolled tension can pop up as aches and ills that make us feel crummy.
A key aid to weathering your stress while grieving is friends. Research shows that when faced with a big upset, many of us cope by leaning on the social support of friends, which reduces stress and strengthens our resilience.
Studies show that a mere one hour of exercise over a three day period is also important to reduce the impact of stress on the cellular level. This doesn’t mean all or nothing gym workouts because going for just a thirty minute walk will help lower your stress.
A balanced diet and adequate sleep are also essential. I found myself doing takeout when Donnie died, which not only caused a twenty pound weight gain but interrupted my sleep as it was just too much greasy food. Sleep was something I would lay awake wishing for but my mind just wouldn’t settle down. I’ve written guides on relationships, stress and sleep that are great resources. They on available on my website as well as blog postings that are helpful.
Studies published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine point to three 25-minute sessions of meditation or Tai chi each week to alleviate stress. It calms nerves with deep breathing and improves your mind/body connection.
Trust your inner voice that tells you what you are feeling. Many of us suppress our grief for fear of letting it go and not being able to control it or that it will make others uncomfortable. Instead let grief have it’s time because suffering in silence is no good for anyone, least of all you.