Unfortunately in today’s world its more common than not that too many of us are living in a constant state of stress, where what we now perceive as urgent is as little as what we have to do each day. Things like checking our emails, getting the kids ready for school, planning what to have for dinner & something as simple as folding the washing can send our stress levels through the roof.
Many of us dare I say spend all day if not most days on red alert which can greatly impact the quality of our overall health & have a negative effect on the functioning of multiple systems throughout the body without us even realizing.
So what I really want is to help you understand what exactly is going on in the body when we’re going through times of stress and the long term effects it has on our physical and mental health.
When we experience a stressful moment, which In modern times could be due simply to coffee consumption, or our perception of urgency, our Fight or Flight response kicks in which raises our heart rate, increases our respiratory rate, releases stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) and shunts the blood away from the digestive tract to the muscles so that we can either run away from or ‘Fight’ whatever it is we believe is ‘threatening’ us. Now generally what should happen is once we have dealt with this ‘Threat’ our rest and repair hormones should jump back In, bringing our heart rate and respiration back down and move the blood back to the digestive tract so that we are able to digest our foods.
The problem Is this doesn’t seem to be happening any more In today’s society and too many of us are unable to move freely between the two. Sadly we are living in this constant state of stress all day, every day which is why we begin to experience health issues such as digestion issues, bloating, gassiness, poor quality of sleep, blood pressure, low energy, weight gain, mood fluctuations just to name a few. The sad thing is that we except this as apart of life and we go on functioning at 50% of our full health as this has just become our new ‘normal’.
We begin fighting an uphill battle as when you’re living on high cortisol levels this effects the body’s ability to recover and repair which takes place when we’re sleeping. But when were stressed this effects our quality of sleep which is why you will generally experience moments of waking throughout the night, struggling to get to sleep & waking up still tired. As a result of this we begin to self-medicate by reaching for coffee, energy drinks or that 3pm sugary treat to give us that pick me up to get us through the day. What you don’t realize is coffee actually increases our cortisol levels so what were now doing is adding additional stress to an already overworked over stressed body. So the result is, over stimulated adrenal glands, high levels of stress hormones circulating the body keeping us wired, decreasing our quality of sleep, reaching for a pick me up to get us through the day and the cycle repeats itself each day. When our bodies are lacking quality sleep — remembering recovery and repair happens while we sleep. Our bodies now become catabolic and they begin breaking down lean muscle to keep up with the demand of cortisol the body needs to cope with the amount stress it’s in. When your body is in this state its now breaking down more than it is repairing & the last thing its going to do is allow you to start burning body fat as it needs body fat to survive this ‘dangerous’ time it perceives it’s in. The body’s ability to utilize body fat is prohibited no matter what you do, exercise rigorously, cut calories, eat clean it won’t make a difference if your bodies continually functioning in a state of stress.
You may also start to find that certain foods are causing digestive upsets, which can even result from foods you’ve always eaten. The problem is if we continue to consume these foods that our body disagrees with, our body becomes inflamed and this is when we begin to experience symptoms of bloating, gas, irregular bowel movements/diarrhoea. Too often though were completely unaware that we have food sensitivities and we continue to eat these problem foods which are continually causing inflammation. Add this on top of all the other additional stressors the bodies already under such as mental/emotional stress, caffeine consumption, poor nutrition & alcohol -the body is now working in overdrive to keep up with the demands its under & to keep you functioning that eventually its going to crash. You’ll reach a point where you have nothing more to give, you’ll start to get sick all the time & struggle to fully bounce back & basically you will hit complete exhaustion.
Being aware of the signs and symptoms is the best defense you can have to avoid/overcome the effects of stress. There is a lot more to health, wellbeing & weighloss than simply just input and output. Theres a greater picture to it all but the most important thing to take away from this is that by making lifestyle changes and working with your body you have total control of how you can look and feel.
One of the biggest challenges of modern times is that the body can constantly be on the receiving end of the ‘fight’ or flight’ messages. There are so many factors internally and externally that drive this response, that we have to begin to choose actively not to get caught up in the rush. You don’t have to except that gaining weight as a part of aging, low energy is life taking its toll & that certain foods just don’t agree with you anymore.
Take the time to listen to the messages your bodies sending you, make steps in your daily life to explore your perception of pressure and urgency and save it for when you really need it-not when you’re going through your inbox. Look into ways to support your recovery and repair hormones like restorative practices, stop focusing on dieting and instead focus on eating more wholefoods, limit caffeine consumption. All these little changes can add up to making a great difference and get you back onto the right track of feeling great again.