Stress and Resilience
Can stress be good?
We need some stress in our bodies in order to stand upright. Stress has gotten a bad rap. All stress is not bad. However, most of us are familiar with the idea of excess stress, which is unhealthy. When the body experiences a stress response it may be from one or several very stressful/ tramatic incidents, that immediately flood the body with cortisol (stress hormone), which the body has been unable to fully clear. Alternately, a stress it can come from an accumulation of what we may think of as smaller stresses over a long period of time. This physiological response triggers a flood of hormones (cortisol, primarily) in our bodies setting the body into a state of physical vigilance. This is a survival response that is initiated by the most primitive part of our brain. (which was appropriate to escape from threats such as a Sabre-tooth tiger).
In Ninety (90%) percent of illnesses stress is an aggravating factor. This means that if we can control/lower our stress levels, than we can have a tremendous impact on lowering the resulting stress-related illnesses. If we add further self-care of balancing our lifestyle, making healthy food choices, exercising, spending time with people we love and doing things we enjoy... imagine thriving on all levels of your life!
What is causing these stress related illnesses? Our bodies are overreacting to our modern stresses. We experience a similar physiological state of alertness whether we are responding to the threat of a saber-toothed tiger (pre-historic) or driving down the road and getting stuck in traffic (modern). The body perceives both of these stresses as a threat to survival. Why do both of these examples garner the same level of response? Most of us are rushing around like crazy for most of our lives and are too busy to take the relaxation time the body needs to reset and heal itself. Consequently, all of our modern stressors, no matter how minor, have a cumulative effect on the body. The body becomes like an overrevved engine, all of the time. So, something that should otherwise be a minor annoyance causes the body to react in the same manner as a life threatening event.
Once the body is flooded with these hormones, and the immediate stress has passed, we need to de-stress. Otherwise, these revved up adrenal responses collect, taxing the whole body and we become vulnerable to stress related illnesses (such as hypertension, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, insomnia, headaches, heart palpitations, anxiety, fatigue, etc...).
How can I reduce my stress and be healthier?
In order to rid the body of these stress-related hormones, we need to make the shift from the “fight or flight response” (driven by the sympathetic nervous system - it's automatic) to the “Relaxation Response” (driven by the parasympathetic nervous system).
Ways to help protect against the physical ravages of stress include eating healthfully, being physically active, doing things you enjoy, and spending time with people that you connect with.
What are some of the ways you are aware of that stress affects YOUR body?
If balancing your life feels a little overwhelming, I'd be happy to speak with you about how we can work together!