Happy Wednesday! Today’s post is all about stress and the implications it has on your life. Do not fear my friends, Friday I’m going to talk about ways that we can start to learn to manage our stress levels.
I’m passionate about finding a balance for myself where stress does not overtake my thoughts or days. Just like any other person, there are days or work shifts that get the best of me. I can tell you that I have improved on managing my stress levels over the past couple of years, and I will touch more on that on Friday. For BalancedAmes readers, I want to keep giving you useful information to incorporate into your lives in order to improve your health. I hope over the next two posts you’ll see why this subject is so important. Let’s get to it…
There is no better way to say this: stress is a major part of the average American’s life. There are things we do to ourselves and events happening around us that we cannot control. Stress is your body’s physical, mental, and emotional reaction that is telling you to adjust. There are common stressors that most people experience: long hours at work, financial issues, lack of sleep (see this sleep post), health issues, the health issues of family members, relationships, busyness…just to name a few!
- About 50% of Americans reported having a major stressful event or experience in the past year.
- About 43% reported the most stressful experience related to their health.
- People that experience “a great deal of stress” reported too many responsibilities and financial problems as the leading issues.
Interestingly, many health issues could be related to chronic stress. Let’s look at the symptoms of stress listed on Mayo Clinic’s website:
Effects on the BODY: headache, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue, changes in sex drive, upset stomach, and sleep issues
Effects on MOOD: anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation, irritability/anger, sadness, and depression
Effect on BEHAVIOR: overeating or under-eating, angry outbursts, drug and/or alcohol abuse, tobacco abuse, and social withdrawal
When I look at the list of symptoms the main thing that I see is how stress can be a cyclic problem. You are busy at work, so you keep cutting your sleep short. Because you are stressed + short on sleep you are more irritable. This causes you to be a less pleasant person, probably to the people you are closest to and then your relationships suffer. Being irritable with people makes you feel bad and stressed, so you need a glass of wine. And you just going around and around and adding to your stress. BLAHHHHH! Who wants to be sleep deprived, irritable, and rude to people that matter the most?! Not me.
Now, let’s talk about a little hormone named cortisol. Cortisol comes from the adrenal gland and has many jobs in our bodies. It is responsible for helping us to wake up, it also regulates our macronutrients (fats, proteins, and carbohydrates), helps to regular blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and immune response. As you can see, these are very important jobs.
When you encounter a stressful situation, your body releases cortisol. This isn’t bad, this is what your body is supposed to do to help you deal with the situation. Your body should then return back to baseline or homeostasis as the stress is resolved. The trouble comes when your body doesn’t return back to baseline, and it has excess cortisol all the time. Your body might be in a constant alarm state because you are in a non-stop stress state.
What if you have too much cortisol? If this is an issue that is chronically plaguing your body it can lead to: blood sugar imbalances and diabetes, weight gain and obesity (excess cortisol often shows up as belly fat, in this state of excess the body breaks down muscle and makes fat), a suppressed immune system, gastrointestinal problems such as ulcers and poor digestion, higher blood pressure, and fertility issues to name a few.
Life is tough. We’ll all go through terrible times that cause us loads of stress, that’s an unavoidable part of being human. But, there are also certain stressful situations that we put ourselves in and lifestyle adjustments we can make in order to have less stress.
Okay, so now that we know the implications of walking around as a stressball…come back on Friday to learn how to decrease your stress levels 🙂