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In this episode, you will learn the why and how stress impacts your health, how to determine if stress is having an impact on you, and what to do about it.
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Resources mentioned in this episode:
- 7 Day Spark
- Eating with Intention
- Wellness Circle
- Submit a Question for the Show
- Download the Stress Kit
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Do you feel stress? You know, the kind where you might have a pounding head or maybe you can't sleep? Maybe you wake up in the middle of the night? Maybe you're anxious or irritable? Sometimes this can be a really familiar scenario. In fact, it's estimated that millions and millions of humans all over the globe experience it all day every day.
Sometimes, this all day everyday stress is referred to as stress overload. Now you may be thinking, this is NOT a new topic and you would be right. Stress has been around since the beginning of time, and as we said about inflammation, it's not always a bad thing. Stress CAN serve a purpose.
Stress can give you that necessary zing to jump into action or to move from a thought process into action. Stress could generate a simple or easy action: like, jumping into action after planning to ride your bike, or planning something in your work or business life, getting to a deadline or avoiding something life-threatening. On the flip side of that stress is what allows you to escape from a flood or fire or other dangerous situation. In fact, you can even say that stress, much like inflammation is one of the reasons why our species, the human species has survived.
When stress becomes something that happens regularly, or when we're under a sustained amount of stress, our health, our livelihood, and our relationships suffer, because stress affects our moods, and it can affect our ability to form clear thoughts, actions, and plans. Science has now led us to understand that stress has a physical effect on the body. The mental or emotional, aspect of stress has a physical effect on the body, it makes us more susceptible to getting sick, makes us more prone to inflammatory diseases. And overall, it weakens the body and it weakens the spirit.
What is stress?
So what the heck is stress? Really, when you look at it through the lens I have just described, it's survival. Right? The term stress was actually coined in 1936. And in that same discovery, an interesting quote arose, take it for what it is worth, Dr. Hans Selye, a Canadian doctor said, “to be totally without stress is to be dead.”
With that quote, the good doctor was describing that stress, whether you're in real danger or perceived danger, whether it is acute or chronic stress, is a built-in fight or flight response inside the body.
The response system that is responsible for stress includes the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, the adrenal glands. And once it's activated, it is those three glands (sometimes referred to as the HPA-axis), instantly put the body on high alert, it gets the body ready. Ready to either run away and flee the situation, or stand against it fight or flight.
So the stress response begins in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is this little gland or cluster of cells at the base of your brain, and it controls things like regulating your body temperature, your thirst, your sleep, and wake cycles, even your energy levels - its all regulated right there at the base of your brain.
This fancy little gland, the hypothalamus also releases a compound that drives your response to stress, it drives a hormonal cascade that controls how your body responds to stress. Once that cascade starts, it continues through the pituitary gland, which secretes an adrenocorticotropic hormone causing your adrenal glands to start producing stress hormones like Cortisol.
Now you've heard me talk about cortisol before, cortisol has some good functions, it boosts your body's energy supply, and it keeps you on high alert in times of danger. On the flip side of that, it when cortisol is activated too much when there's too much cortisol, it actually work to inflame your body, to create weight around the middle, cardiovascular problems, and a whole host of additional troubles.
How does stress affect the body?
Interestingly enough, about three out of four patients that go see their doctor, are seeing their doctor for stress-related issues. I would say in my functional holistic wellness practice, 100% of my clients have stress as one of their issues.
Chronic high stress has gotten worse and worse. Even if you're going to the doctor for something that is not directly stress related, those pesky stress hormones, like cortisol and norepinephrine can suppress your immunity. This results in you catching all the colds and viruses and everything that walks by you, including some forms of cancer...because of stress.
Science tells us we have an evidence base that proves what goes on in your head, our emotions, and our energetic field has a very detrimental impact on your health. Oftentimes, you can link an illness to something that's happened right after a stressful event. And you can visually see if you plot it on a timeline, how that stress directly impacted your immunity.
The immune system is initially given sort of a booster during the fight or flight response - no harm no foul as long as that doesn’t turn into chronic stress. Our trouble now is that that stress keeps going, it persists, and the nutrients and energy needed to meet, the demands of that stress inside the body are absent for most of us.
We all live in this world of wall-to-wall stress, which results in these immune suppressing levels of hormones. And high cortisol puts a natural damper on your ability to fight off disease.
And not just diseases that you can catch. Cortisol also has a really negative impact on your heart and cardiovascular system. It can lead to increased blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides, all of these factors served to increase your risk of hypertension, stroke, and heart attack.
What kinds of stress are there?
There are actually different kinds of stress and each kind impacts us a little bit differently. The American Psychological Association defines three different kinds of stress that we experience, acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress.
Acute stress is the most common form of stress, it's your body's immediate, like the gut reaction to something new, triggering somewhere between a minor and a major fight or flight response, no big deal. That's the healthy kind of stress, okay?
Now, if you move that forward a little bit to episodic acute stress, that's when acute stress happens frequently. Think through your circle of friends, if you have a friend that is always having some sort of crisis and canceling at the last minute, they're having episodic acute stress. They're frequently having these acute stress episodes.
Eventually, that moves into chronic stress. So if you don't take the steps necessary to manage acute stress, and it turns to episodic acute stress, and then chronic stress, those periods of stress go on for longer and longer periods of time. And then it becomes chronic stress.
If you've ever heard the description, “type A personality” or “worry-wort”, both of those descriptions, if they're you, often reflect somebody who suffers from at least episodic acute stress, if not chronic stress. Even though we're explaining them in sort of a casual manner, these types of stress can have devastating effects on your health, especially as they build up over time. This is a problem primarily because they're often ignored.
It is worth reiterating, there is a lot of evidence supporting a causal link between stress and chronic health issues really an acute issue as well.
What are the signs and symptoms of stress?
How do you know if you are suffering from stress? I have a little download for you to nab here, it's quiz by a professor that studies stress. This little download has 10 quick questions and is designed to tell you how close to the breaking point you are. You can download that quiz and the associated remedies here:
Outside of the self-assessment download, some direct symptoms of stress that have a massive impact on your quality of life are fatigue, jitters, dry mouth, any change, usually a decrease in libido, chest pain, blurred vision, headaches, skin breakouts, muscle pain or tension, difficulty sleeping, generalizes digestive problems, and last but not least you're catching every bug that comes along.
Additionally, on a cognitive or mental level, you can look at things like restlessness, lack of motivation or focus. If you're often irritable or angry if you're having some sadness or depression. If you forget all the things or if you notice that you are overly anxious or frequently anxious.
Finally, behaviorally, you can look at things like overeating or undereating, using a lot of alcohol, tobacco or drugs to cope, and then not wanting to move your body as often or even social withdrawal.
All of those are common symptoms and signs of stress (for adults and kids).
How can we manage stress?
Most importantly, how do we manage this? How do we stress less? If you grab that little quiz or self-assessment you can see where you land, but there are also resolutions there for you supplementally and behaviorally. These are things you can do right now to reduce your stress. You can get the download here with all the details:
Supplements to Manage Stress
Omega 3s. If you guys have been hanging out for long you know that I recommend everyone take omega threes. I don't care if you get them from fish, or if you get them from algae. Either way, you need to be taking around 3000 milligrams per day. Studies show that omega threes long term help to reduce stress and anger.
Ashwagandha. Man, it is a beautiful herb. Ashwagandha has a wide range of benefits. It's well tolerated and has a history of being safe. It is a great stress remedy and in 2017 needed a clinical trial that shows Ashwagandha not only reduces stress but also help to stop food cravings related to stress.
Lemon balm. These leaves made into a tea can help improve your focus and improve your mood. It helps to reduce anxiety, promote sleep and well being.
Chamomile tea. There's a good evidence base around that Chamomile tea is ideal to help ease into sleep after a stressful day.
Vitamin B. This has scientifically backed benefits when taken daily, it can help reduce depression, anxiety, and work stress. Now interestingly, vitamin B if your body can't put it to use, if you're taking the wrong kind of vitamin B, it can actually have the opposite effect. So make sure you're taking a bioavailable form.
Valerian root. This is one of my very favorite herbs for reducing both the physical and psychological symptoms of stress. Usually, I recommend it to help improve sleep. It has a nice sedative effect. But I have also found great success in people who have to give big presentations or maybe having work stress to be able to take low doses of it during work. So usually I recommend people take that for a brief period of time to improve their sleep. It can also help a lot with restless leg syndrome.
Behavioral Modifications to Reduce Stress
I know we all want it to be as easy as just popping a pill. But it's not. Let's talk about some actions you can take some behavioral changes.
- Meditate. It seems so very simple. There is a solution out there for every person. Don’t let the term “meditation” or your IG image of what meditation “should” look like get in your head. It’s simple. I have a quick guide on meditation techniques to try if you are too busy or just can’t meditate.
- Plan ahead. Having a plan is half the battle, as long as you can avoid getting stressed even more if things DON’T go according to plan. In that regard, planning ahead is more or less being prepared. If mornings are stressful, what can you do the night before to make things go a little smoother? Those are the kinds of plans to make ahead of time.
- Essential Oils. These are instant shifters in your mood and stress level. INSTANT. Using oils topically or aromatically can create massive change. Some of my favorites for this are Valor, Sacred Mountain, Lavender, or Cedarwood. You can use a “scent tent” by placing a drop on your hand, swirling it around for a bit and then inhaling or simply add a drop to your chest, pulse points on your wrists, base of your neck, or even the top of your head. You can learn more here.
- Unplug. Put the phone down. Step away from the computer. This technology is beautiful and helps so many, it helps me get info to you and help people but we have to know when to step away. The constant bombardment of information is triggering high-stress levels. Where can you go and leave your phone behind?
- Get outside. We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt that going outside reduces stress AND reduces inflammation in the body. So kick off your shoes and head outside, this one is so easy and so non-negotiable.
- Move your body. Get out of the mode that you must exercise your life away, or spend countless hours at the gym. This can add to your stress level. Do you know what would be perfect? A walking meditation, with a drop of Essential Oil on your chest, barefoot, outdoors, leaving your phone at home, for about 20 minutes. Bliss!
Need more help? Be sure and check out AudreyChristie.com/work-with-Audrey to schedule a complimentary appointment.
It's really, really important that all of us to pay attention to your body, your mood, and your behavior signs that we talked about.
So seek out help. If you need help you can seek out the help of Your Local Wellness practitioner, your family doctor, it is worth giving herbal supplements a try but if medication is what you need, no judgment in that either. These options are here when you have the mental capacity to handle them
So let’s do a quick recap.
To wrap this up, et rid of stress or at least mitigate so you can avoid the health drama associated with it. Try supplements for getting over the hump, but by in large behavioral changes of meditation, unplugging, getting outdoors, and moving your body will serve you much better. Get the download here: