Stress is an essential human response. It is part of our human survival kit. The way that we react to stress is very individual as it is based on our own perception of a situation. What one person finds stressful may have zero effect on another. Therefore, it is important for us to be able to identify our own personal sources of stresses, so that we can make the necessary lifestyle adjustments to reduce stress in our lives.
However, we must also become attuned to listening to our body because ‘sources’ of stress are irrelevant in relation to its response. It simply has a chemical reaction to messages it receives from the nervous system.
When we feel that we are in danger or under threat the adrenal glands release hormones, cortisol and norepinephrine, that mobilize energy stored within the cells. The release of these hormones has a very powerful effect on our physiological processes. They provide us with the extra strength required to get us through difficult situations and in extreme cases the stress response – commonly known as ‘Flight or Fight’ – could save our lives. In everyday situations the stress response will help us to rise to life’s challenges.
When in balance, our bodies will respond to stress in a healthy way. Our hormone levels will increase to get us through the difficult situation and then return to normal when the stress has passed. However, in times of prolonged stress the body doesn’t have the chance to return to a ‘normal’ or ‘balanced state’. The ongoing demand on our adrenals to release the cortisol required to deal with stress becomes too much. The adrenals become depleted and begin to have an adverse effect on other systems of the body. This kind of stress is chronic and commonly results in Adrenal Fatigue, Exhaustion, and in extreme cases Addison’s disease.
Chronic stress is often additive and cumulative. The gradual build-up of stress in our bodies happens over years and we become accustomed to feeling fatigued and anxious, to the point where this (toxic) state of being begins to feel normal. We no longer remember what it feels like to feel healthy and balanced. It is for this reason that stress is commonly referred to as the silent killer.
Below is a list of some common effects of chronic stress, Adrenal Fatigue and exhaustion. Take a look and see how many you can relate too.
- Fatigue (not recovered through sleep)
- Lack of concentration
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart Disease
- Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning
- Increased/decreased weight
- Lack of interest/joy
- Digestive disturbances (diarrhoea/nausea/vomiting/constipation)
- Menstrual disturbances (amenorrhea/increased pain and bloating)
- Lack of sex drive
- Poor memory function and inability to focus
- Irritability, frustration and moodiness
- Slow to recover from injury or illness
- Increased incident of illness
- Everyday tasks become more difficult to handle
- Less tolerance to stressful situations
- Panic attacks
- Rapid heart beat
- Aches/pains/muscle tension
- Racing mind
- Changes in appetite and cravings for high fat/sugar/salty foods
If the symptoms on this list feel particularly familiar to you take it as a serious warning that you need to make changes to your lifestyle. Our bodies are far wiser than any of us could ever hope to be, so when they’re telling us that something’s not right, the natural response is to listen.
Originally posted on Holistic Stress Management April 1, 2013