Over the past year I have become increasingly interested in the effects of stress on our bodies and what we can do about it! Having worked within the hospitality Industry for more than 10 years and in a busy resort town, stress is something that has become a part of peoples life’s and is literally talked about daily.
“The World Health organization says that Stress has become a World Wide Epidemic”
Wow! That’s all I have to say about that…. so I thought before I dive into the effects on stress on the body, let’s understand what happens internally when we are stressed and why our bodies have something called a stress response aka “flight or fight” response in the first place.
The Dictionary defines stress as ” a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances” and “pressure or tension exerted on a material object”. The moment stress is activated our heart rate speeds up, blood pressure increases, respiration quickens, adrenaline, non-adrenaline and cortisol are released, our digestive system shuts down and blood flow is routed to the arms and legs!
Why does this happen? The combination of reactions to stress in our body evolved as a survival mechanism, enabling people and other mammals to react quickly to life-threatening situations. This in turns allows someone to fight the threat off or flee to safety thanks to the perfectly orchestrated sequence of events within our body, allowing us to use our limbs to their full capacity, backed up with adrenaline to really get us going! Pretty Awesome I would say.
So in a time long before any of us were born, the ability of or body to detect danger and turn on the stress response was literally a life saver! So when you found yourself chased by a Lion like the one in this image, you had a better chance of survival. You may wonder at this point why the hell I am bringing this up…..truth be spoken while our brain is an incredible operating system, it cannot differentiate between REAL and IMAGINED stress!
So this mean’s that every time you are feeling stressed by tight deadlines, expectations of others, expectations of yourself, maybe after making a mistake, getting yourself “in trouble” or feeling like you are not showing up enough or perhaps you are not even sure anymore why you are feeling stressed the body turn’s on the stress response and puts you into “fight or flight” mode. Your Sympathetic Nervous System is on high alert and firing on all cylinders – you may notice shortness of breath, tight chest, racing heart beat, restless legs, foggy brain, a feeling of stones in your stomach after eating and/or heightened emotions.
On a scale from 1-10 whats your stress level. 1 being the lowest and 10 being the highest?
Personally for almost 5 years, up until January of 2018, I was running at a steady 9! I was in a high stress, high intensity, high pressure environment. And I could feel the effects on my body as they led me to complete burnout. You can read my story how I turned it around here
Now let’s get to the list of effects of stress on our bodies. And if you are anything above 5 I highly recommend reading this article to the very end! Here are the top 10 …..
1. Causes Brain changes and heightens emotions:
These changes may contribute to anxiety, depression and addiction.* If you experience chronic stress you may notice how your emotions are heightened, you may not respond to added stressful situations very well or are easily set off by changes in your day/schedule. Perhaps you noticed that you are far more unproductive and have a hard time focusing.
2. Increased cortisol production:
Associated with weight gain (especially in the belly), as well as can lead to inability to lose weight or gain muscle and/or cause premature aging. **
3. Decreased nutrient absorption:
Due to decreased enzymatic production from the stomach, pancreas and liver amongst others nutrients (vitamins and minerals) may not be able to be absorbed fully **
4. Decreased gut flora populations:
Healthy intestinal bacteria are destroyed by stress, which can lead to immune problems, skin disorders, nutrient deficiencies, and digestive distress. **
5. Decrease in sex hormones:
Can mean lower sex drive, low energy, decreased muscle mass. **
6. Increase in inflammation:
The basis of many significant ailments, including brain and heart disease. This can lead to becoming sick more easily or feeling more pain in your body **
7. Increased food sensitivities and allergies:
When our bodies have a lower immune system due to stress and our gut is inflamed common food sensitivities may surface or allergies can worsen **
8. Increase in risk of osteoporosis:
Bone density has been shown to decrease in stresses and depressed women; stress increases urinary excretion of calcium, magnesium which then has the ability to lead to osteoporosis in some cases **
9. Decrease in mitochondria:
These are the energy powerhouses of the cell; when the number of these tiny cellular organelles are diminished, we literally produce less energy, this can lead to chronic fatigue and burnout. **
10. Increase in insulin resistance:
Chronic stress may cause target cells to become unresponsive to insulin, a factor in diabetes, weight gain, heart disease and aging.**
So It’s pretty safe to say that chronic stress has some major impact on our health. The worst about all of it is, that most people are unable to find ways to put the breaks on the chronic stress they are experiencing. As a Health Coach one of the key areas within my coaching program I offer is reducing stress, and teaching people tools to not only put the breaks on stress but how to manage it on a daily basis so they can thrive.
What I heave learned from working with clients and also from my team over the years is that most stress we experience is perceived by ourselves or us trying to control other peoples actions. A battle we simply cannot win.
“Stress, Anxiety and Depression are caused when we are living to please others” ~ Paulo Coelho
In addition, we fail to understand that stress in our bodies is also caused by the amount of tech we are exposed to, such as hours in front of computer screens, on mobile phones or watching TV. As well as chemicals we put into our bodies through use of harsh chemical products in our household, through skin care and poor diets.
So what to do about it?
I could certainly write an entire blog on this topic and if you’d like to learn more, comment below and let me know! But today I share 4 simple ways that can help you create more balance in your life and counter act the effects of stress on your body.
1. Meditation, Yoga or a Hot Bath along with deep breathing
All the above can do wonders to counter act stress you experience throughout the day and help you to fire up your Parasympathetic Nervous System also known as the Rest and Digest System which turns off stress, and turns on relaxation and digestion. I meditate on a daily basis and add deep breathing following the 5-5-7 breath – breathe in for the count of 5 seconds – hold your breath for 5 seconds and exhale for 7 seconds. Doing the 5-5-7 breath for only 2 minutes is known to turn off the stress response and help you relax! It’s super powerful and you can literally do this anywhere!
2. Reduce the amount of chemicals you put in or on your body
When it comes to food there is only one rule to follow “Count Chemicals and not calories”! Yes you heard me right, if you start to bring your attention to this and eat a wholesome diet, your body will thank you and it will be the cure to many of the effects that stress has on your body by supporting your digestive system. If there is an ingredient you can’t pronounce or know what it is, put the packet down and find an alternative. For household cleaners or skin care products, switch to more natural options, there are plenty available!
Spending more time outside in nature has an array of positive effects on your body to help you relax and reduce stress in your life. The average person spends only 7 % a day outdoors, that is between 1-2 ours per day, not nearly enough to soak up the benefits nature has to offer. I read this amazing article the other week disclosing the scientific reasons around why being in nature is relaxing, you can click here to read more
4. Try Incorporating Essential Oils into your daily routine
Essential Oils have long been known to have incredible health benefits as well as can be effectively used though-out your day to help you combat stress and anxiety! Personally I have to admitt that I have recently become obsessed with them. I start my day with putting some essential oil on the bottom of my feet, the blend I use is called “Balance” by DoTerra it is an oil blend designed to help you feel grounded and balanced through-out the day as well as I put some “serenity oil” in my diffuser each night to help me have a restful sleep. Those are just two out of many others I use to help me create balance and relaxation in my life so I can handle the stressors and combat the effects it had on my body over the years.
If you follow the above steps you are sure to start combating the effects that stress has on your body! Comment below and let me know your thoughts or any key takeaways you had from this blog. You can also follow me on Instagram to get daily inspirations.
Feeling stressed on a regular basis and are keen to get some support in helping you reach your health goals? E-mail me at email@example.com or complete the contact form at the bottom of the page to setup a free consultation and talk about where you are at, your vision for your health and how I may be able to help you thrive!
* resource used from Harvard health
** resource used from Health Coach Institute