Spotlight on Stress: What’s Stressing Us Out
So my last post talked about stress and why it can mess with your healthy, happy, glow.
This post I thought I’d talk a little about what stress actually is, what causes it and how can you tell if you are stressed.
What is stress?
The physiologist Hans Selye coined the term “stress” in the 1950’s as “the nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it.” Dr Chris Kresser says that at the simplest level “stress is a disturbance of homeostasis” i.e. it’s the body’s inability to regulate its inner environment. It’s the body’s instinctive response (e.g. ‘fight, flight or freeze’) to external environmental cues (such as perceived danger), as well as to one’s inner thoughts and feelings.
The Adrenal Glands
The adrenals glands are chiefly responsible for regulating our stress response by secreting hormones – such as cortisol and adrenaline. When these hormones flood your system they raise your heart rate, increase your blood pressure, making your blood more likely to clot, damaging your brain’s memory centre, increasing belly fat storage, and generally increasing inflammation, reducing your immunity and doing damage to your body. Because of this, the adrenals are what determine our tolerance to stress and are also the system of our body most affected by stress.
Stress is important and in fact some stress is actually good for us. The body is supposed to react to stress but it is also supposed to go back into a non-stressed state. Unfortunately in today’s world stress has become more consistent and in some cases chronic meaning that people don’t get a chance to reset which can lead to the adrenals becoming fatigued which has the knock-on effect of a myriad of problems.
What are potential stressors?
Most people are aware of the obvious forms of stress: loss of a loved one, exams, driving in rush hour traffic, financial problems, arguments and losing a job. But other factors not commonly considered when people think of “stress” place just as much of a burden on your body that you don’t even realise.
Types of Stress
Here are just some of the stresses we may encounter in daily modern life:
- Over exercising or over training
- Sitting for long periods of time – sitting is the new smoking!
- Lack of sleep – insomnia, burning the candle at both ends
- Travel and jet lag
- Grief and sadness
- Anger and resentment
- Loneliness and depression
- Comparison – not feeling good enough
- Worry and anxiety
- Working long hours leading to mental exhaustion
- The inner Mean Girl or Bitch Brain – negative self-talk
- Always ‘being on’ thanks to the internet, email and social media
- Food intolerances and allergies
- Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals
- Eating processed, nutritionally void and inflammatory foods
- Blood sugar swings
- Gut dysbiosis
- Caffeine, nicotine, sugar, drugs and alcohol
- Chemical ingredients in cosmetics and toiletries that we put on our skin and ingest
- Household cleaning products
- Pesticides and other environmental toxins
- Illness due to infections and viruses
- Broken bones
- Chronic diseases
- Troubled relationships – whether it be romantic relationships, family, friends, co-workers etc
- Financial or career pressures – making ends meet, providing for a family, work deadlines or targets, increasing workloads
- Challenges with life goals – maybe you aren’t where you thought you’d be, not having a purpose, not knowing what you want from life
- Keeping up with impossibly busy schedules and feeling FOMO (the fear of missing out)
- General state of happiness
What are some signs of stress or that your adrenals could be fatigued?
Pretty much anything that has you feeling out of whack. Here are just some of the signs, a lot of which people just don’t give much notice to:
- Excessive sweating from little activity
- Low blood sugar
- Muscle twitches
- Sensitivity to light
- Heart palpitations and/or shortness of breath
- Easily irritated and/or tearfulness
- Salt cravings
- Chronic infections (bacterial, fungal, yeast)
- Low blood pressure or high blood pressure
- Excessive mood response after eating carbs
- Tired and wired or just plain old fatigued
- Poor sleep, waking up with racing thoughts or an inability to get back to sleep
- Sweet, sugar, and carb cravings
- Skin issues: Premature aging, dry skin, break-outs
- Low libido
- Headaches, poor memory, brain fog
- Neck/back pain
- Gastrointestinal problems (constipation, diarrhea, gas, abdominal pain, heartburn, reflux)
- Menstrual irregularities
So while stress in this day and age is unavoidable, there are loads of things that you can do to help manage stress which I’ll cover in the next blog in this stress series.