Stress and Your Body

What Everyone should know is happening inside of them when they are confronted by things that are “unpleasant”

I like keeping my blog posts both informative and relevant to what is going on in my life and other peoples lives, because I’m not the type of person to just put on a happy face and fake being happy all the time.  I am a fan of transparency.  I won’t lie, a good amount of my life is great and there is nothing in my life to be unhappy about.  But that still does not mean that I am immune to stuff like anxiety, stress, and plain “bad” days where it seems like everything I do doesn’t seem to go according to plan.

Even though for the people that know me, I’m more a go with the flow kind of guy, except when it comes to things like being places on time or deadlines.  Just because of my Army days and the time crunch factor of using that stress as a motivator to get things done.  Kind of like a college student during finals week, to put it in a somewhat understandable perspective, because I never went through that kind of mental and intellectual stress.  Mine was more mental and physical.  But I am not immune to stress.

ANYWAYS… Here’s some science coming your way…

Stress is our body’s way of naturally responding to situation, most of the times it stems from fear and uncertainty, which creates a chemical reaction in your body.  During any given stressful situation, we go through a “flight or fight” response system, which is left over from our more primitive mindset of evolution.  This flight or fight response system triggers our adrenal glands to release adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol.  Adrenaline causes your heart to pump faster, which brings you to a heightened state and a surge of energy; norepinephrine brings focus to that heightened state, where you are able bring distinction and clarity to your environment; and then there’s cortisol, which actually brings you down from this heightened state and regulates blood pressure

AND HERE’S THE KICKER…

What people who suffer from chronic and long term periods of stress, are producing too much cortisol.  Since cortisol is one of the latter chemicals your body produces, it generally takes a few minutes for you body to feel its effects, which sometimes the amount of Adrenaline and norepinephrine has calmed down and yet your body is still producing cortisol.  

This excess cortisol levels essentially brews in your body which can lead to:

  • Increased blood sugar levels – which leads to greater fat storage.
  • Suppressed pituitary function – which leads to low testosterone and estrogen, which can lead to lower libido function and muscle growth; as well as mood swings.
  • Suppression of the immunity system – which leads to getting sick more often.  Allergies flare up.
  • Increased inflammation – stemming from the immunity system, this inflammation is our bodies way of reacting to our outside environment and diet, so swelling of the body as well as gastrointestinal issues.
  • Reduced Liver function – which can affect the way your body regulates its blood and detoxification.
  • Memory loss
  • Inability to relax and sleep, which leads to chronic fatigue

BUT…

We need cortisol in our system because as stated earlier, it regulates and helps maintain a lot of our bodily functions.  Good levels of Cortisol help us with:

  • Acute inflammation is normal when your body comes into contact with something that it is sensitive to or allergic to, this reaction is necessary for its protection and is our immunity systems way of doing so.  So getting rid of inflammation completely is not a healthy things.  You can manage it but it is a normal reaction your body goes through.
  • Regulation of our blood sugar levels, which is our bodies way of converting fats and proteins into energy.
  • Regulating our moods from going between one extreme to another

And most importantly it is supposed to HELP us manage stress.  Yes, cortisol is the “stress hormone”, which makes it sounds like a nasty thing to have; and YES, in excess it is.

And in situations, where we are NOT getting enough cortisol, is when we are in that panicked and freaked out state, where it seems like we cannot handle what the world is throwing at us or when we can’t handle what we signed up for.  And these low levels of cortisol has similar reactions to the body as does too much cortisol.  Which is a process of adrenal fatigue, where the body stops making cortisol, because it’s in such a heightened state that your mind sees as never ending.

SO IN OTHER WORDS,

The human body adapts to constant reoccurring situations, which results in our body reacting the way it does.

If you’re constantly stressed, panicked, worrying about things, your body is in a heightened state, which as from our primitive “Flight or Fight” response, is still running on it’s adrenaline and can’t calm down.

Which is why people who are stressed or going through anxiety HATE when you say calm down, and they say they can’t; which is because they literally can not calm down.

Usually, they have to be removed from that situation in order for it to happen.  Remove the threat and removes the stress.

Nice And Slowly Now

So now you have removed yourself from the situation, or the “threat” is removed, now what.

You just breathe.

Breathing promotes a response in your body of calm; going back to those primitive times.  

….

Imagine if you would that you’re one of your ancestors and you’re being chased by bigger and vicious sabertooth tiger that you were hunting.  Your adrenaline is pumping making you feel stronger and faster; norepinephrine is making running through the natural wilds and forests more comprehensive so you don’t close line yourself on a branch or trip over a root; and cortisol is doing its thing to keep your heart from exploding.  The beast is now nowhere in site, our hearts are pounding, trying to catch up to up to you, so you stop and you breathe.  You know you’re safe, everything around you is quiet, and you can finally calm down. So you breathe.  Your heart is slowing down.  You can hear birds calling overhead.  And you breathe.  Relaxing in the processes, letting safety wash over you like a cool waterfall.

So my tip for you Just Breathe.

Breathing slows the heart rate and relaxes muscles.

Breathing decreases blood pressure.

Breathing increases easier blood flow by opening up your blood vessels (raising your nitric oxide levels).

Just breathe in for 5 secs.

Just breathe out for 5 secs.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

So this tip is for in the moment of stress of course.  But to help lower your stress levels, by regulating your cortisol levels to a normal level.  You should:

  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Get adequate amount of sleep for you.
  • Exercise on a routine basis.
  • Learn to let go of worries.
  • Be present so you’re able to handle situations that come up.
  • And believe in yourself.  Once you stop doing that, your stress management begins to crumble.

Hope this was informative and helpful.  And for more information on a free fitness assessment and nutrition consultation just reach out and say hi.

 

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