Stress what stress?
Many people every day say that they are stressed. It is a loose emotional term used to describe their current “busy-ness” of life. However, to some people, stress is a real and very problematic condition that can affect your relationships at work and home and your general wellbeing and functionality.
Although, a little stress in life is needed to function, a relentless non-stop amount can overstimulate the organs, known as the adrenal glands, to pump out hormones on a constant basis. Should this constant output continue over a long period of time this can create a condition known as Adrenal Fatigue.
If you think back to when the caveman lived he woke up every day with the job of survival. He hunted for wild boar, which in itself was a life threatening event and therefore did not happen on a regular basis. When faced with this stressful situation his adrenals would excrete adrenaline and nor adrenaline and enter into the “Fight or flight” response. His heart rate would increase, pupils dilate, his blood would be transported away from the digestive system (taking his mind off hunger) and into the muscles in the arms and legs to help him run faster. He would become alert and his blood pressure would rise. At this point the caveman would either “fight” the wild boar or run for the hills “flight”. After this experience he would either return to his cave with a successful meal or empty handed, either way he would have a restful period whereby to regain equilibrium.
Going forward to today’s modern world with its consistency of accountability, increased output, greed and constant communication and our stress episodes are lining up one after the other. There does not seem to be enough restful opportunities between each episode either which is when the problems start.
The three stages of stress:
Alarm Reaction: This is when the adrenal glands are healthy and you can function normally whenever the need arises.
Resistance Stage: Stress continues and the adrenal glands enlarge but you can still respond normally and handle situations.
Exhaustion Stage: The adrenal glands fail to meet the demands required of them. You could become fatigued, dizzy and faint. You would have trouble getting out of bed. Anxiety can set in.
Over stimulation of the adrenals can cause a decrease in immune function as stressful episodes use up very quickly the nutrients in our bodies, therefore, stressed people tend to catch colds more regularly. As blood clotting is increased when the body is stressed, prolonged stress can cause a build-up of plaque in the arteries and lead to heart disease. During stress the blood is shunted from the digestive organs to the muscles which can lead to indigestion and irritable bowel disease.
There are different forms of stress:
- Emotional stress which is the most well-known form usually associated with separation, divorce, death of a loved one, job loss, financial worries, exam nerves etc.
- Thermal stress which comes from being exposed to extreme temperatures.
- Physical stress from obesity, excess physical work, sleeplessness, skeletal and muscular pain.
- Chemical stress from consuming sugar, alcohol, food additives, exposure to pollutants.
All of these different types of stress affect the body in the same way; the adrenals do not distinguish between them.
Obviously, it is impossible to control all stressful situations but it is possible to control some of them and you can certainly do this in a few ways as mentioned below:
This is one area that you can control by eating frequent meals utilising protein and complex carbohydrates together. For example tuna (protein) and whole-wheat pasta (carbohydrate). By using complex carbohydrates i.e. foods made using the whole grain rather than processing, bleaching and adding to it, the carbohydrate offers the energy that you need to function and the protein allows it to burn slowly so that you maintain a steady blood sugar level.
By avoiding sugar this reduces the sharp peaks in blood sugar which give you a burst of energy but are always followed with a low trough leaving you exhausted and craving for the sugar again.
Avoiding stimulants like tea, coffee, smoking, and alcohol as these all affect your sleep patterns and blood sugar levels. A lack of sleep can further stress your body so using alternatives to caffeine can help immensely.
Many people suffering with stress complain that they do not have time to eat or prepare food and so skip meals. This has a dramatic effect of dropping your blood sugar level which can result in exhaustion and fatigue. By looking at planning meals that take minutes or organising your meals by batch cooking so that all they need is to be heated up can save time. Food that does not require cooking such as, salads and crudités, fruit and nuts are great ideas for lunches on the run. By taking control of your diet you can start to regain momentum to return to your normal functionality.
Controlling your Emotions:
Try not to focus on relationship problems that cannot be solved. For instance, if you find your boss is unappreciative of your work and never seems to recognise your efforts, focus instead on the fact you have a job. Many people do even have that these days.
Emotional health can be controlled to a certain extent mentally by accepting that a certain situation is happening but that you are unable to change it therefore worrying about it only causes you further upset. Take control by accepting the situation for what it is and move on to more positive things that can be changed or enjoyed.
Obviously, there are some situations that really do test people, for instance caring for an elderly or sick family member can cause an immense amount of stress and emotional guilt. By looking into support for yourself and time away from these situations can be immensely beneficial to your wellbeing. By having the time to go for a gentle walk or swim, or just meeting a trusted friend to talk to this can be a great stress reliever.
Meditation, yoga and pilates are also great stress relievers as they offer gentle physical activity, rather than vigorous exercise which can cause further stress on the body. Obviously, doing the gentler types of exercise is not going to change your situation but it can change the way your internal body perceives the stressful event and change its response to it.
Whatever stress you have in your life, you can put in place a programme to cope with it. Life is not always going to be easy and there will certainly be times where you find more on your plate than you would like but there are strategies to help you cope. By addressing the above areas in your life now and taking control of them you will at least be in a position to face whatever life throws at you in the future.
To find out more about this article or adrenal fatigue you are welcome contact our Richmond Life Coach on 07583981865