We all know something about stress and we all experience stress at some time in our lives. A stressful period of time for myself was completing a full-time degree with 3 young boys, that was a trying time to say the least, but we just push through and do it!
We live in a hectic society where we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be the perfect mother or father, keep the house clean and up to scratch, make sure the children are well looked after and often a lot of families have both parents working which can be a strain at times. Whether you are a family or single everyone has stressors in their lives they have had to deal with.
Stress doesn’t always have to be the obvious stressors of life in which we feel “stressed out” it can also be physical stress that our bodies are dealing with, environment toxin exposure, poor food choices leading to inflammatory like states, underlying illness and obesity that can trigger a stress response.
So how does our bodies deal with stress?
We all know the feeling of becoming stressed or experiencing a fright!
Our adrenal glands, which are located on the top of our kidneys, these little guys do so much and often are overlooked, produce adrenaline and cortisol in response to stress. What this ultimately does is put our bodies in a “fight or flight” state shifting energy resources to systems in our bodies to fight off or run away from a stressor. We all know the feelings of stress the increased heart rate and breathing, muscle tension, agitation and anxiousness.
When we experience a stress our body automatically goes into action! Our stress response is activated our heart rate and force increases to provide areas of our body that are necessary to get us away from a situation with blood so we are able to respond to the stressor. Glucose is released at higher rates into the blood stream to provide our muscles energy to response to the situation. Breathing increases to supply our muscles and brain with increased oxygen requirements and our digestive system function decreases at this time as it is not a priority during stress, this is why it is a recommendation not to eat when stressed! Our stress response is programmed for a more primitive time where we were required to run away from life threatening situations, for example a wild animal trying to eat us. During this time we would of utilised the resources our body provided us but now we are often dealing with stress of work, relationships, finances etc. in an office or home situation that do not require us to run or use the resources that have be provided. We have a great negative feedback system that shuts down the stress response but due to the ongoing stress that many of use deal with we often get to a state of exhaustion and this is why it is important to acknowledge the stress you are experiencing and implement stress reduction in your life where possible.
So what are the health implications of a prolonged stress?
Our bodies are amazing at dealing with stress but if we are experiencing stress over a prolonged period of time that is when problems can arise.
Some issues that can results from chronic stress may include:
- Weight gain and the inability to lose weight, often tummy fat which is not ideal!
- High Blood pressure
- Digestive Concerns
- Decrease immune health
So how do we address stress?
I would have to say most of the clients I see in clinic have some form of stress going on in their lives, be it emotional stress or physical stress. There are numerous herbal and nutritional approaches to helping our bodies deal with stress but it is important to implement lifestyle stress reduction techniques as some of these simple tools can make a huge positive impact in reducing stress and the symptoms associated. A lot of the tools listed below have significant amounts of research supporting the positive effects they have on stress reduction as well as reducing blood pressure, anxiety and reducing depression.
So what are some stress relieving techniques that can make a profound difference?
- Yoga and Meditation
- Getting out in Nature
- Deep breathing exercises
- Whole Food diet and reducing refined carbohydrates
- Reducing alcohol and caffeine intake
Stress is not something we can avoid in our lives and it isn’t always a bad thing either but if we can be aware of the stressors in our lives and implement lifestyle stress reduction techniques we can help to reduce the negative impacts that stress can have on both our short and long term health.