What is stress?
Stress is anything that throws your body out of balance (physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually…as if they could be separated). The stress response is the body’s effort to restore that balance. The body was created with the wisdom to address survival first, and only once you’re out of danger will it allow for optimal wellness.
Potential stressors could include:
- Not being good enough (smart, thin, wise)
- Toxins in the air (chemicals from vehicles, mold, paint fumes, etc)
- Job (don’t like your job or work too much)
- Caregiving for a friend or family member
- Health (symptoms, lack of results, etc)
- Fear of any kind (fear of a presentation, fear of inadequacy, etc)
- Not having control over my future/no voice (doesn’t matter what I say…)
- Guilt or shame (past abuse, kids aren’t doing well in school, etc)
- Bitterness, anger or jealousy
- Lack of sleep
- Poor diet
- Daily stuff (traffic, cell phone broke, other drivers, etc)
- Clutter- too much stuff (to maintain, clean, take care of etc)
- Bad habits (being late, sugar, over spending, staying up too late, etc)
- Saying yes to too many (good) things
The ANTICIPATION of a stressor can be a stress as well (worrying about a potential meeting for example).
Why has this issue of stress become so important? Stress is a silent killer. Everyone knows it’s an issue but we don’t give it enough credit to cause us take it serious. People around the water cooler brag about how full their plate is and how stressed they are. This is nothing to brag about. Stress has been linked to: heart disease, cancer, sleep issues, digestive trouble, high blood pressure, pain and inflammation, skin issues and depression/anxiety, to name a few. We often blame the diet or lack of exercise for these issues which is fair however, it may be prudent to ask yourself, “if stress were less, would living a healthier lifestyle and making better food choices seem more in reach?” Hopefully you’re starting to see the connection between stress and all the other issues that lead to disease.
ARE YOU STRESSED? Sometimes we don’t feel like we are stressed because we are so used to functioning in that current state. It has become normal to us. Many symptoms ranging from memory loss and constant worrying to procrastination and low sex drive, are actually a result of the stress response being activated for too long a period of time. These symptoms are NOT normal. They are the body trying to tell you that something is wrong.
Stress is less about what is happening and more about how you perceive it. What causes one person to feel overwhelmed with stress, is no problem for another person. For example, rain, to a farmer who is about to lose his entire crop is a welcomed gift…however, to a family that just paid a fortune for a special vacation, rain can be a dreaded spoiler. The rain didn’t change, just the perceiver.
Also, your brain doesn’t understand the difference between a real and perceived stress. If you are thinking about it, it’s a real stress to your nervous system. For example, have you ever watched a scary movie? You can feel your heart race and perhaps when the bad guy jumps out, you jump too. Why? You know in your head that the bad guy isn’t in your living room. It’s because your brain sees no difference.
The problem is that we activate the stress response for reasons that don’t REALLY require it. The sympathetic nervous system was created to get you out of trouble and keep you alive. This is where the term “fight or flight” comes from…in and emergency, your body instantly prepares you to either face the danger or escape from it quickly. Take the example of being in the woods picking berries when along comes a hungry lion (or tiger or bear). You will need to either fight it off or run extremely fast to escape.
What happens when you’re stressed:
- Adrenaline is released
- Cortisol is released
- Pituitary secretes vasopressin (tells kidneys to conserve water and not make urine)
- Heart rate increases (pump blood/oxygen to legs and brain)
- Senses become sharper
- Blood pressure increases
- Promotes insulin resistance
- More fat is stored around the abdomen
- Glucose comes pouring out of your muscles and liver as it will be needed to “get away or fight”- then if you just sit there…its sugar in your blood (diabetes)
- Vitamins and minerals are used up quickly
- Immunity goes down
- You can become desensitized to pain over time
What DOESN’T happen when you’re stressed:
- You don’t sleep (so you’re tired most of the time- leads to use of more stimulant like sugar and coffee)
- You don’t digest food (so toxins accumulate and deficiencies are more likely)
- Body isn’t able to detox (so toxins get stored in fat cells)
- Growth (in children)
- Cell repair (damaged cells lead to many disease conditions)
- Proper elimination
- Mind isn’t clear- harder to make good choices
- You can’t lose weight (because you don’t detox)
- Libido/sex drive decreases
- You don’t have “extra energy” for exercise and sex because all energy is being used for survival (brain perceives that you’re being threatened)
- Getting pregnant
- Healing the liver
- Dealing with pH
- Kidney stones
*This is of course not an exhaustive list.
Why is it a problem? Because a NORMAL stress response is designed to last for a short time…if your brains sees EVERYTHING as a “LION”, you never go into the parasympathetic state which is where your body can shed toxins, digest food, carry a baby, repair cells, etc
Overtime, the stress response becomes a bigger stress than the original stress itself. It makes sense. Think about how long your body has to go without proper digestion, cell repair, etc if you’re in the stress response for days at a time. This is why a person can eat a perfect organic clean vegan raw whole food diet, be under a lot of stress and still have all kinds of health challenges and nutritional deficiencies. Eating a food is not the same as properly digesting and assimilating it. You can’t activate the sympathetic and parasympathetic at the same time (like gas and brake)…if you’re stressed all the time, there’s no room for other processes. Are you starting to understand why we have so many digestive issues in our culture?
If this response is activated every time someone irritates you or cuts you off or doesn’t like your cooking etc…it has a cumulative and damaging effect.
Purpose of stress response? (to get you away from the lion or to fight it)…short term- It can save your life in the short run (as it was designed for, BUT can make you sick over time)…should last until its over or you’re over.
So what can you do about it:
- Do a cleanse- This is not the time to further stress your body by doing a lot of fasting or cleansing. Your body is already working really hard to help you survive the danger.
- Exercise intensely- For some, intense exercise can be okay but for many, excessive stress brings with it adrenal burnout and you do not want to exercise hard with this condition. You can still do lots of walking, rebounding, stretching and yoga to stay active and healthy.
- Isolate yourself for long periods of time- get help if/when you need it.
- Trust God with things you can’t control: Weather, Who is the president (but still vote), the economy, the actions of ANY OTHER HUMAN… remember on this one that you can influence your friends, spouse, kids etc but you can not control them.
- Live in a way that creates LESS STRESS- List what causes you stress…what could you change? How much are you creating? (Exp. being late, job you hate, etc)
- Ask yourself better questions. What do I really want? Why am I willing to deal with this? What am I getting from it (there’s always a benefit)? How can I take responsibility to either change it or change the way I think about it?
- Do things that reduce stress daily
- Time in nature (woods, sand, water, grass)
- Exercise- go light to start and see how it feels (walking, yoga, rebounding, stretching, gentle swimming)
- Find a quiet place of rest (room, closet, porch, a park, trail, etc)
- Stretching- “unwinding”
- Guided relaxation
- Deep breathing (inhale for 5 counts, hold for 5, exhale for 5)
- Go to bed early (get more rest)
- Drink TONS of minerals- pink salt, greens, lemon water, etc
- Fun and laughter-ever feel stressed while at a comedy show?
- Journaling (get what’s inside, OUT!)
- Meditation- not religious or new age in and of itself…practice how you feel comfortable…for example you could stare at a candle or crashing waves and keep repeating “I am loved and I love others” or some other simple and positive mantra.
- Supplement with salt, greens, B vitamins, magnesium, etc (so much of your nutrition during these times
- Eat light and digestible (smoothies, salads, juice)
- Body work- massage (The CRANIO-CRADLE is a WONDERFUL daily tool)
- Self care of almost any kind (sauna, castor oil pack on kidneys, mineral bath, etc)
- Sex- the ultimate stress reliever…enough said!
- Organic unsulphered apricots support adrenals (2-4/day)
- Time with calm, supportive and positive people
- Anything that relieves pressure from your mind, body or spirit (make a list, call a friend, hobbies etc)
- Foresee stressful times and plan to rest, exercise and eat better before and after along with supplementing to support deficiencies that are likely to come along with the stress.
WHAT NEXT: Action Plan
- Create a list of stressors that take you out of balance- which ones can be DELETED from your life? What plan can you create to help with the others? What thinking needs to change? Who do you need support from? What tools do you need to learn, invest in or create?
- Schedule time EVERY DAY for at least 1 (if not several) from the “things that reduce stress” list
- At least 3 times per month…block out a full 90 min. for those things.
- Support yourself nutritionally by taking salt, B’s and Greens and magnesium daily…take extras on the days that are more stressful.
Balance means that some days are tough and others are easier…continue flowing with life and create habits that cause you to be better able to choose joy in the midst of chaos…because chaos isn’t going away. Picture your life with more peace and harmony. We need more people like you in the world to lead others away from the chaos and toward the calm!