Why Stress is Dangerous
No one likes to feel stressed. It makes us irritable, can affect our sleep and eating patterns, lowers our ambitions and self-care awareness and in general makes us feel less than 100%. The very things that can help us control our stress like adequate sleep, regular exercise and a healthy diet are generally the first to be cut from our lives when we find ourselves down to the wire. Unfortunately, we live in a society where stress is a daily part of our existence from the long lines of traffic on the way to work, the job itself, finances, poor health and often our home life as well. Finding space to release stressors and return to center seems to be gifted to the few, the lucky, the yoga retreats, island vacations and deprivation tank sessions. So, we live with it, as if it’s normal, yet it is not. We are not designed to stay in a heightened state, and our nervous systems are paying for it. What does this actually mean? What does chronic stress really do? Perhaps you are handling it well, but is your body paying for your cool exterior?
Let’s take a look at the actual effects of daily stress and understand exactly what the physical body goes through during the battle of the mind. Stress is not often caused by a physical stimulus unless you are a professional athlete or involved in heavy, manual labor. It is brought on by the mind and emotions. We have a to-do list, obligations, responsibilities, and failures, and these are the things that weigh heavy on our thoughts and generate physiological responses. These changes have been studied in the medical community by nearly every branch of science and medicine including geneticists, psychologists and neurologists, and each one of them have noted the degradation of the body due to stress.
Our body’s reaction to stress would be a flawless design if stress was still defined as a life or death situation and those physical responses kicked in momentarily to increase our chances for survival. When we feel threatened, our adrenal glands begin to release key hormones like adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine signaling our fight or flight response system. As these chemicals blast through our body, they increase our heart rate, respiration and glucose levels to prepare us for the physical exertion, but our modern lives don’t follow stress with a fight to the death or run across open plains. We are flooded with unnecessary hormones as we continue to sit at our desks and dwell on all of the pressures in our lives.
These three hormones may not sound that dangerous, but to release them and build up energy to react to the perceived threat, your body slows and at times completely stops other necessary processes like your digestive tract, reproductive system, growth hormones and parts of your immune system. So when we live in a chronic state, these vital parts of ourselves are continuously robbed of the energy they need to function at healthy levels. Not to mention the strain it puts on your adrenal glands and nervous system which remain agitated without relaxing because the mountain lion at the office never goes away.
While all of these natural occurrences do not cause any short-term harm, all science concludes inevitable physical distress from long-term stress. Migraines, lack of sleep or appetite, mood swings and fatigue are only the beginning. Stress has been linked to heart disease, impotence, erectile dysfunction, gum disease, skin disorders, stunted growth, digestive discomfort, gut impermeability, cancer, cognition function and so much more. Chronic stress impacts us at a cellular level and reaches all parts of the body.
Before your body starts screaming for a break, listen to the immediate warning signs of daily stress. If you have experienced any of the following and cannot link them to a physical source, then it is most often the cause of stress.
- Brain fog, lack of attention, focus and follow-through
- Regular headaches and tension pains
- Sleep irregularities, insomnia or inability to stay awake
- Dietary irregularities, under- or over- eating
- Lack of self-control, mood swings, irritability
- Lowered immune response, constantly feeling sick
- Pain, tension and stiffness throughout the body
- Increased anxiety, nervous tics, worry
Perhaps you already know stress is wreaking havoc on your health and your life, but you simply don’t know what to do about it. You can’t take a vacation or quit your job, but you do need support to make sure that the life you lead is not cut short. That’s why we’ve compiled time and budget friendly lifestyle choices that will help you get above your stress and restore the balance in your body. Some may seem cliché, but at time the simplest answer is the best answer.
As stress impacts all areas of the body, you must use a functional medicine approach and reinforce all areas of the body, starting with the nutrients you put in it. You need to bring your hormones and glucose levels back into balance and that can begin with food. It doesn’t sound pretty or easy, but start by cutting out caffeine, alcohol and sugar. When stress is back under control, you can add these back, in small amounts, if desired. Avoid inflammatory foods like gluten, processed, cured meats, trans fats, soybean and vegetable oils, processed and packaged snacks and foods that do not come from whole sources. Eat well and eat enough. Add in high-quality nutrients like superfoods and Healthy Greens. If you think your gut has already been affected, add in Healthy Gut supplements for healing and support.
Really evaluate the cause of your stress and determine if it is worth the damage it is causing. Look for modifications and eliminations, no matter how small, that could help. Once you have a strong mental grasp on it, from all angles, and understand its value weighed against its cost, then make an inner decision to accept it. Here are the cliché stress relievers, now take this decision into your meditations, yoga practice, forest walks or whatever other outlet you use to calm the body and mind. Visualize the reward and see yourself continuing without the stress. It is not longer a threat but a choice.
For those times when the stress becomes too big, don’t cut your exercise; increase it. Physical exertion gives those chemicals a place to go and returns meaning to the function of stress in the body. Add the fight back to the equation and hit the pavement or the punching bag.
Lastly, try natural antidepressants and anxiety reducing herbs like Chamomile tea, Astragalus root, Rhodiola, Valerian and Lavender. Take something like Inner Balance with Healthy Sleep to get your circadian rhythm back. It’s amazing what small changes can do when you combine them for overall wellbeing.