“Stress is a fact of life, but it need not be a WAY of life.”
What Causes Stress?
There are as many different ideas about what causes stress as there are people who experience change in their lives. This is because stress, at its simplest, is the way in which an individual reacts, physically and emotionally, to change.
Is All Stress Bad?
There are some misconceptions about stress. One is that it is something that simply happens to you, like an accident. The other is that it is, by definition, a bad thing. In fact stress is something we create within ourselves. It is the result of our reaction to outside events, not the events themselves. A little bit of it is not only good for us, but it is essential – it’s what allows us to achieve all the things that keep life moving steadily along. It is only when too much stress builds up over a prolonged period and our coping mechanisms fail, that it becomes something harmful.
The things that we label as stressful – pressures of work, crumbling relationships, moving house, awful children/partners/bosses – are actually stressors. These are the things that can trigger the stress response if we let them. The stress response itself is the biological change that is brought about by intense emotion. The most common stress-inducing emotions are frustration, anger, fear, anxiety and self-doubt.
How does your body respond to stress?
When we are stimulated by a stressor -whether it is nice or nasty – our bodies respond with the familiar flight-or-fight reaction. Adrenaline and glucose flood into our bloodstream, our breathing becomes shallow and fast to give us extra oxygen, our muscles contract, ready for action, and our blood pressure and heart rate rise. In the early stages of stress, we feel great. The adrenaline gives us a buzz and the oxygen and sugar make us alert. For a short while we need less sleep, our brains work well and we have lots of energy. This is good or “adaptive” stress and it helps us to rise to the challenges of each day.
What turns good stress into bad is what happens after the crisis. If we don’t break down the stress chemicals, they stay in our blood, preventing us from relaxing. The chances are that a new stressor will start the whole process up again before our bodies have had a chance to return to normal. If this keeps happening, we end up in a permanent state of stress.
Chronic stress contributes to a variety of diseases including heart disease, hypertension, cancer, diabetes, stomach ulcers, depression, adrenal fatigue. Check your stress inventory to see you risk level.
Can Stress make you FAT?
When your body is preparing for a fight-or-flight, it will want to store energy primarily as fat! This is how stress can lead to weight gain. Stress leads to the release of adrenaline and cortisol into the blood to quickly mobilize energy production from carbohydrates and fats. Once the threat is gone, our body wants to refuel – decreasing our sense of fullness and increasing hunger. There begins a sequence of events whether the threat is real or perceived. Most of our modern day stresses don’t required superhuman strength and great energy expenditures so all the extra storage is often not needed. In addition, many of us are under a constant state of stress, operating at elevated cortisol levels over long periods of time. Increased cortisol levels leads to adrenal fatigue, fat storage and belly fat.
Being able to recognize your stressors is the first step toward preventing “bad stress”. Some examples of stressors are:
- Encountering minor hassles that seem major, such as traffic jams, waiting in a queue or minor disagreements.
- Undergoing major life changes such as a new job, redundancy, marriage, birth of a child, moving house, illness or death of a loved one.
- Taking on too many responsibilities, such as combinations of working, furthering your education, parenting, fulfilling family obligations or enduring financial difficulties.
To assist with coping, take time to become aware of the events, people or places that put a strain on you. Once you begin to identify your stressors individually you can then explore different techniques for coping.
Stress, like change can be positively, negatively, internally or externally generated.
POSITIVE STRESS: Positive stress is what helps you concentrate on the job in hand. It aids concentration, keeps you focused and increases performance. Many people report that they produce their best work when under pressure but once the challenge has been met, they take time to relax and wind down. Relaxing allows physical and emotional reserves time to adapt, ready for the next challenge.
NEGATIVE STRESS: Good stress becomes negative, or “distress”, when you don’t relax between the challenges. In this type of situation, stress becomes a constant and on-going cycle, which is hazardous to your health and well-being.
INTERNALLY GENERATED STRESS: Most of us suffer from self or internally generated stress. This is stress we bring upon ourselves, often from our self imposed standards of behavior. Take time to think of the areas in your life where you are the major contributor to your increased stress levels.
EXTERNALLY GENERATED STRESS: These are often areas we have little or no control over. Things like traffic jams, sick relatives, lost jobs and criticism.
Although there may be many things in life that you can not control, there are very few things that you can not learn to manage – and that includes the negative side of stress. Become aware of the things that make you feel stressed (the stressors), and of how you feel when under stress. Learn to “listen” to your body for signs and symptoms, such as headaches, upset stomach and tense muscles. You can do something about it. Becoming aware, developing and using simple relaxation techniques, gives you a measure of choice and control over the stress factors in your life.
- Avoid hassles – look for ways around the things that you find stressful.
- Take a break – a few minutes “time-out” allows you to calm down.
- Communicate your needs and listen to other peoples
- Eat a nutritionally balanced diet with less processed foods
- Balance work, rest and play
- Learn to manage your time effectively – use a diary.
- Set goals for yourself – short and long term, but make them realistic.
- Avoid negative people, places and thoughts.
- Reduce stimulants such as alcohol, caffeine and cola drinks.
Incorporating exercise into your daily routine is a very positive stress management technique, and is great for your heart as well.
Deep breathing is a simple relaxation technique to employ. You can sit or stand to do this anywhere at anytime. By inhaling deeply you allow your lungs to take in as much oxygen as possible, and this begins to relieve the tension that can lead to negative stress. Try to practice this technique for a few minutes three or four times a day, or whenever you feel tense. Try our 3 Minute Relaxation Technique
Remember! Stress is a normal part of life. The key to successful stress management is to recognize your individual stressors and learn how to manage them.
Supplements to Consider:
- Cortisolv to help reduce cortisol levels and improve sleep.
- Super Adrenal Stress Formula – precisely formulated combination of nutrients to help promote normal adrenal hormone production and adrenal function.
- Herbal Adrenal Formula – a special herbal formula to help sustain adrenal function during stress, and to support a healthy output of adrenal hormones, including cortisol
- RelaxMax – a formula to promote calm, relaxed physiological state. Jacque Crighton likes this to replace her glass of wine in the evening – provides the same sense of calm but healthier!
- Sleep Aids including Insomnitol, Melatonin CR, Melatonin Liquid
- For Anxiety or immediate sense of calm apply to emples of back of neck. Many of our clients carry this “Happy Cream” GABA/L-theanine cream
- Check your symptoms with our Adrenal Fatigue Assessment Questionnaire and talk to your practitioner or make an appointment with a member of our team (772-419-0505).
- Learn to recognize and understand stress and assess your stress level and risk for illness with our Stress Inventory.
- Assess your salivary cortisol levels.
- Try our 3 minute relaxation technique. It really does work!
- Improving your healthy starts with a good diet, an active lifestyle and stress management. See our section on Lifestyle Modifications and learn how to make positive changes to prevent aging!