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60% – 80% of primary care doctor visits are related to stress, yet only about 3% of patients receive stress management help.
Stress is defined as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. When you feel stressed, your body ramps up production of the stress hormones cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine – these hormones increase heart rate and raise blood pressure.
I have no doubt that most people now know that not all stress is bad, so stress can be quite beneficial – we actually need stress to grow, develop, and change. Mentally, physically, and spiritually stress helps us to reach more of our potential. For example; exercise is a stress on the body, but done in the correct way it can help us build muscle, strengthen joints, regenerate cells and manage the not so good stress. Check out this short video that explains, well, how stress works 🙂
One of the main stress hormones, that again, I am sure you have heard of ‘Cortisol’, which is released by the adrenal glands in response to physical and mental stress on your body. It can ALSO increase during times of starvation and caloric restriction. BECAUSE it increases blood sugar energy through the breakdown of muscle. Cortisol has also been shown to LOWER fat breakdown, which of course can increase the storage of fat on the body.
Excess cortisol can also suppress your immune system which makes your body more susceptible to infection and illness 😮 .
Here are some stress facts that you may not be aware of;
- Your body doesn’t care if it’s a big stress or a little one.
- Stress can make smart people do stupid things.
- People can become numb to their stress.
- We CAN control how we respond to stress.
- The best strategy is to handle stress in the moment.
So let’s get a little deeper —> High cortisol typically results form academic, family, work based and psychological stress. Along with the physical stress of exercise and caloric restriction or dieting.
- Measuring your ration of cortisol to testosterone can give a good indication on whether you are recovering from stress properly
- An ASI or adrenal stress index can measure your stress and if adrenal fatigue is an issue. It also measures immunity and GUT HEALTH. (PS health of your GI tract goes hand in hand with adrenal fatigue).
- Measuring your HRV or heart rate variable and blood pressure with apps, software and medical machines can give an indication of stress on your body. I like to use an app called ‘Stress Check’ by Azumio and the ‘Tinke’ tracker.
Stress affects your whole body, but according to neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky in the documentary “Stress: Portrait of a Killer,” the following are the most common health conditions that are caused by or worsened by stress:
|Anxiety||Sexual dysfunction||Infertility and irregular cycles|
|Frequent colds||Insomnia and fatigue||Trouble concentrating|
|Memory loss||Appetite changes||Digestive problems and dysbiosis|
Once you know where you stand with stress – you can then address how to manage it. I teach a section on stress and some stress management hacks in The HETA guide along with a calming yoga video from my friend Jo-anne at willowhealth.ca/ .
Some good ways to manage stress of course are walks in the sunshine, meditation, a Yoga or Qigong class, a funny movie, girl (or guy) chats with a good friend, singing along to your favorite song, getting back to nature with a hike in the mountains or barefoot walk on a beach. Ultimately, whatever you do for stress relief, is a personal choice, as your stress-management techniques must appeal to you and, more importantly, work for you. If a round of kickboxing helps you get out your frustration, then do it. If meditation is more your speed, that’s fine too. (A personal favorite of mine is practicing some diaphragmatic or belly breathing along with an inversion move ‘legs up the wall’).
Even having a good cry now and then may be beneficial, as tears that are shed due to an emotional response, such as sadness or extreme happiness, contain a high concentration of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) — a chemical linked to stress. One theory of why you cry when you’re sad is that it helps your body release some of these excess stress chemicals, thereby helping you feel more calm and relaxed xo
As always, if you have any questions, leave a comment below or feel free to email xo