We keep hearing that stress is damaging to our health. Actually stress has its place as a motivator, a stimulator to action. But too much of this useful stress becomes distress – now that’s how stress can get to you. So how do you know when you have crossed from stress into distress, from useful stress into destructive stress?
Under extreme or sudden stress various glands are triggered into action and release hormones to deal with the threat, the sudden demand or the overload in our personal world. It’s the body’s automatic reaction that bypasses rational thinking. This is your fight or flight, self-preservation, knee jerk reaction that floods your body with adrenaline (called epinephrine in USA) and cortisol secreted by your adrenal glands along with other hormones.
Adrenaline is produced during high stress or exciting situations. This powerful hormone is part of the body’s acute stress response system, known as fight or flight.
Under stress Adrenaline:
– stimulates the heart rate
– contracts blood vessels
– dilates air passages
– increases flood flow to muscles
Cortisol is one of the hormones that rises rapidly under high stress and is produced by your adrenals, situated on the top of your kidneys. Cortisol is not a bad guy in the system. It is part of regulating normal everyday activities, like getting you out of bed in the morning. Cortisol tends to peak in the morning and decrease as the day progresses. This hormone is essential for life and is high only under high stress, and is low when you are going about your normal daily business in a relaxed state. It rises and falls according to need.
– how we use fuel, our glucose metabolism
– regulates blood pressure
– regulates insulin release for blood sugar maintenance
– regulates rapid fat and carbohydrate metabolism in emergency
– impacts on immune system balance
– involved in inflammatory response.
Cortisol increases levels of blood sugar to help the body to adapt to changing situations or circumstances that provoke stress, to stand and fight or take off and escape. Cortisol is responsible for about 95% of stress adaption in your body.
When you are relaxed cortisol is low but rapidly increases when you are under stress so its key job is to keep blood sugar levels appropriate during stress and relaxation. The problem can be that when the stress has passed the cortisol levels may stay high for some time. If stress occurs on a regular basis, like daily deadlines and strict time frames, then the cortisol does not have a chance to drop down in the brief moments of relaxation. This can lead to adrenal exhaustion and chronic fatigue, with blood sugar irregularities, immune system deficiencies, anxiety, panic attacks, depression and various degenerative diseases.
Continuous high levels of cortisol can interfere with serotonin and dopamine production, two neurotransmitters that affect mood and sense of well-being.
General Adaption Syndrome – GAS
It’s important to recognize how stress can get to you. Under stress your body has to adjust or adapt and functions differently from your healthy norm. It does the best it can to regain balance within the changed circumstances. This is known as General Adaption Syndrome and has three recognizable phases.
Phase One – Alarm: immediately activates the nervous system and adrenal glands to increase energy for defence or offence.
Phase Two – Resistance: activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the three primary glands that manage our response to stress, often referred to as H-P-A axis. These glands together regulate energy use, immune system activity and digestion. Under stress they instantly increase energy for fight or flight, and reduce energy to immune system and digestion while you are engaged in survival activity in the moment.
Phase Three – Exhaustion or Overload: prolonged stress, or often repeated stress, without opportunity for recovery, leads to breakdown of the weakest body function and dis-ease. The most common diseases in the developed nations of the West are hypertension, strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, stomach ulcers, neck and back pain, to name a few.
Signs of Stress
Know how stress can get to you. The cause of stress can be physical, mental, emotional, or environmental and the adaption to the stress will involve all these aspects. The body will do the best it can to stay productive and effective under the stress load. But the signs will become evident, not always to your self, but often to others with whom you interact.
Physically the tension in our muscles can increase and we become rigid, with neck, jaw and back pain as a result. Tension headaches are common, as are twitches and tremors and poor sleep. Dry mouth and throat can indicate very low levels of digestive juices for effectively gaining nutrition from your food, and obesity can result from comfort eating and storing instead of burning foods consumed. Bowels become over active or under active, or both in turn. Cold sweaty hands and itchy skin are further indicators, as are increased heart rate, pounding heart, high blood pressure, and shallow breathing.
Mental stress shows as forgetfulness, preoccupation, lack of concentration, diminished productivity, past focused or future obsessed, disorganized, negative view of everything, undermining self talk, loss of meaning of work and life in general.
Emotional signs of stress can be irritability, depression, angry outbursts, anxiety, impatience, narrowed focus, low self-esteem, loss of confidence, inability to make decisions, lack of interest, tendency to cry easily, compulsive thoughts, and feeling a victim. We become angry or fearful.
Behavioural changes include increased alcohol consumption, under or over eating, smoking, withdrawal, carelessness and being accident prone.
To Reduce Stress
Make sure you recognize how stress can get to you so you can stop it and reverse it. Stress diverts energy away from your immune system leaving you vulnerable to health breakdown. Medically prescribed adapaogens have been in common use for stress over the last 50 years but the results are less than favourable with many side effects and long-term problems.
Traditionally herbs from the East and the West have been reliably used in many parts of the world to reduce stress, along with acupuncture, tai chi and various martial arts, meditation and other practices. Psychologists have applied various systems and processes with varying success.
Since the 60s and 70s Kinesiology has provided effective options that allow the body and its nervous system to identify the best way to reduce stress, lift energy, and bring meaning and value back into the events of our days as we each walk our life path.
Also see: 3D “Switch On” for Your Brain http://annamcrobertblog.com/?p=289
and Stress Release Process http://annamcrobertblog.com/?p=118