Holidays And Stress 101

Holidays and Stress 101

I did a workshop a few years back on stress and thought I’d pull out my notes.

This time of year the pressure is on and stress is high.  Would you agree?

By design, our bodies are protecting us from danger. When we feel threatened, a series of chemical responses prompt the entire body to prepare for fight or flight.  Stress, however, triggers these chemicals even when we’re unable to react physically and the result can be a host of physical disorders.

The adrenal glands are the chain of command when stress calls.  The adrenals release certain hormones that stimulate other body systems. Hormones released during stress include: adrenaline**, cortisol*, cortisone.

* = which hormone is released

Types of Stress

Acute Stress: This is the body’s reaction to alarm. You feel it when the boss calls you into the office, when you are involved in a heated argument, when a baby cries or when a siren zooms up behind you on the highway.

Chronic Vigilance Stress:
This is what you feel when you cope with children all day, when you are constantly struggling to meet deadlines, when you are worrying about finances.

What type of stress do you have and what body systems are affected?

Body Systems That Are Affected:

Blood vessels*: Repeated or continuous high pressure can cause blood vessels to harden.

Digestive System*: Stress chemicals increase gastric acid to speed digestion and to access energy from food. Repeated surges of excess acids can lead to ulcers. Digestion can also be completely halted by stress.

The heart beats much faster during stress, sometimes even skipping a beat.

Blood Pressure**: Stress raises blood pressure. Chronic high blood pressure can lead to damaged arteries, set up conditions for heart disease, heart attack or stroke.  Stress releases fats into the blood-stream for quick energy. Clotting agents are also released to protect the blood in the case of injury. These fats can build up in the blood vessels making them narrower, while clotting agents make the blood thicker, thereby increasing the risk for heart attack.

Lungs: Breathing quickens to improve “fight or flight” response.

Muscles: Chemical and nervous reactions to stress tense the muscles. Repeated tensing leads to muscle tension headaches, backaches and muscle soreness, as well as knots and cramps throughout the body.

Immune system: Stress is thought to lower immune function and increase the risk of immune –related conditions.

Hormones: Stress disrupts hormones that regulate menstrual cycles causing missed, shortened or lengthened periods.

Here are some solutions:

Stress Relievers:

Slow, deep breathing will return heart rate to normal and improve circulation.
Take breaks
Walk away from stressful situations.
Find humor. Surround oneself with people who make you laugh and smile.
Stretching can do wonders.
Find ways to relax daily.
Be sure to spend plenty of time with those you care about.
The above are immediate de-stressers.

Chemicals triggered by stress are burned off by regular exercise. The muscles, heart, and blood vessels cope better with stress when one has exercised. Sleep is greatly improved when one exercises.

The above was sourced from a Chicago Tribune newspaper article written by the author of Is it Worth Dying for? By Dr Robert S Eliot (1993 )

More about hormones released by the adrenal glands
( below are bits of info from nutritionists martha wilmore and barbara lagoni – thank you )

When these hormones are in balance they are really good for us

Adrenaline is the one we use all day…it helps us deal with traffic, public transportation, bad weather, deadlines, chaos and people!

Cortisone is the repair hormone… it’s healing properties are magic to the body.  People who get cortisone shots or use cortisone creams think this stuff  is a miracle, it’s just topically doing what the body can no longer do. When there isn’t enough cortisone we create degenerative inflammatory conditions (psoriasis, arthritis)

Cortisol is what wakes us up in the morning… we need equal amounts of cortisol for the amount of adrenaline used that day and this must be done while we sleep.

Cortisol is one we really want to watch.  When over produced during high stress… is like fire in the blood stream, causing silent inflammation all over the body, one can’t feel it or see it.

Brain – silent inflammation in the brain can hinder our ability to focus, cause loss of concentration, and even affect short term memory i.e., as dymensia

High levels of cortisol release the hormone progesterone.

Low progesterone puts the “spare tire” around the middle. When your body can’t lose weight, specifically in the middle, it is telling us we are stressed.

High cortisol also destroys serotonin ( low serotonin levels contributes to sleep issues, memory loss and depression )

I carry a particular stress relief product that can help relax the body and mind and promote alertness while enhancing the body’s ability to adapt to stress.  This natural ingredient blend also blunts cortisol, a hormone when over produced can affects long term health

flickr image credit

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