Everyone feels stress from time to time – and while in extreme cases its effects can be quite harmful, it’s not always a bad thing.
A bit of stress can keep you sharp, but too much of it can break you down. Just like anything else in life, it’s all about balance.
Did you know your body is physiologically designed to deal with and react to stress? Let us explain…
What is stress?
When you feel pressure in life from work, finances, school, etc., your nervous system responds by instructing your body to release stress hormones.
Adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol produce physiological changes known as the “stress response” or “fight or flight” response. It’s these changes that help us cope with the threat or danger that we perceive to be affecting us.
How stress affects your body
When you’re stressed, your respiratory system picks up the pace to circulate oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. This often results in fast, shallow breathing. If you’re prone to anxiety and panic attacks, this could cause hyperventilation.
Stress also has a significant effect on your nervous system. The cortisol released by the body suppresses the immune system, causing you to be more susceptible to infections and inflammation. This makes it a lot tougher to fight off illnesses.
When you’re stressed, your muscles tense up to protect you. This repeated movement can cause soreness, body aches and tension headaches. In addition, your heart rate increases until the period of stress has passed. If you experience repeated periods of high stress, it can cause damage to blood vessels and arteries, leading to hypertension, heart attack or stroke.
The impact of stress on your metabolism and reproductive system
Your endocrine system plays an important role in growth and development, metabolism and the reproductive process. Your hypothalamus (located in the brain) connects the endocrine system and the nervous system. Periods of stress prompt the hypothalamus to command the nervous system to release cortisol, epinephrine and glucose. The extra glucose (sugar) is produced by your liver in order to give you the energy you need to deal with the threat at hand. Generally, the body is able to absorb any excess sugar once the stress subsides, but for those at risk of or suffering from diabetes, it can be a real threat.
Stress can also have gastrointestinal repercussions and affect the production of testosterone in men, and cause changes to the menstrual cycle in women. If you struggle with sleepless nights, mood swings, difficulty concentration, difficulty paying attention, and depression, stress may be the culprit.
By contrast, a healthy amount of stress can help us feel more motivated, energetic, and focused.
How to Manage and Reduce Stress
There are 3 steps we recommend taking when you’re trying to manage stress:
- Identify WHEN stress is causing a problem. Be on the lookout for warning signs like muscle tension, tiredness, irritability, and mood swings.
- Determine the causes. Get a piece of paper and write down the possible reasons for your stress. For some people this is enough, others may want to try dividing your notes into categories like this: things with a practical solution, things that will improve with time, and things you can’t do anything about. Once you have your thoughts organized, you can be more realistic about what you allow to influence how you feel.
- Take a look at your lifestyle. Have you overcommitted or taken on too much work? Is there anything you can delegate to someone else? Are there any adjustments you can make to your routine to better support your needs?
Tools to Help You Deal with Stress
At Align Health Centre, we offer many different treatment options to help you manage your stress and its impact on your wellbeing.
+ Try a NuCalm session. NuCalm is a revolutionary program that re-trains the nervous system to build better stress resilience. It sends signals to activate your brain’s natural relaxation system. In other words, when you’re using NuCalm, you’ll feel the stress fade away.
+ Explore Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture stimulates acupoints to increase the level of neurotransmitters (mood enhancing chemicals) within the body. It also affects sympathetic nerve impulses, which can reduce the negative impact of stress and restore balance.
When we fail to address the effects of stress it can lead to serious physical and mental health problems. If you’re beginning to feel burnt out or overwhelmed, don’t wait to take action.