There is one culprit that has a lot to answer for, and that my friends is stress.
Many times I will have a client in front of me that has symptoms due to long term stress. And they will often reply ‘But I don’t feel stressed!’ Then 3 months later I will see them again and they may have made some significant changes in their life such as quitting their job or reducing their daily load. And many of them will reflect and say…’Yeah, I feel so much better now I think I was under a lot of stress back then.’
By all means I don’t want you to race out and quit your day job (unless you really want to). But it’s when we finally slow down and STOP, that we realise how busy we are and what for?
Our bodies are very adaptable vehicles and will adjust your responses to stress in a way that we can adapt without noticing. Think about all of the little ‘stresses’ we have in our daily lives……
- 24/7 access to notifications (email, texts, group chats, social apps and calendar reminders) from your mobile (don’t forget the ‘pings and dings’ that can come with those notifications)
- Work demands
- Health demands- Fitness, diet and lifestyle
- Community demands- Clubs, schools, business, friends all expecting a piece of you
- Future concerns
- Past conversations going over in your head
- Financial worries
- Relationship concerns
- Expectations that you need to fit it ALL in with ease…..
How does our body respond to these little stressors?
- Your adrenals will release cortisol and adrenaline to get ready to fight the threat. You see, our mind has no way of differentiating between a real stress (the Saber tooth tiger kind) or the answering your daily email stress- it’s all the same!
- With this added adrenal spark, your sympathetic nervous system will kick into action- your pupils will dilate, heart beat will increase, blood pressure will rise, digestion will slow down, sugar will stay in your blood stream (so you have enough energy for action) and your immune system will kick in to put out the potential fire threat.
- Have you ever gone on holidays and then on the first couple of days you end up getting sick? Argh! So frustrating! This happens because when you are busy at work, your adrenals are in full swing- putting out the fire with all the anti-inflammatory guys (a.k.a immune system). As soon as the fire goes away (work), so does your cortisol levels. And then bingo! A bug comes in from the back door and you get sick from exhaustion.
- Short term this is okay, but long term stress can disrupt your bodies natural response and end up getting what is called cortisol resistance. Your body starts to not respond because the stress is there ALL THE TIME. Your immune system will drop and inflammation gets out of control…..
How do you react to stress?
I know when I have a full schedule on the things that are good for me and would actually support me in times of stress (or even busyness), are the first to get dropped.
Exercise? Who has time for exercise when your chasing your tail?
Eat well? (scoff), Let’s just be thankful that the family gets some form of food into them (even if it is just from one food group and the same colour). No prizes for best phyto nutrient dish in this house that’s for sure!
And generally that’s not where it ends. Because your day is so time poor you end up staying up later = less sleep.
You may reward yourself with a bickie or two. You may even feel the need to ‘unwind’ with a glass of wine…..
At the time these stress releases may seem ideal, but you will end up burning the candle at both ends and disrupting your circadian rhythm and increase more of your sympathetic nervous system by adding stimulants as your coping mechanisms.
We have all done it.
But how can you make better choices to support your stress response?
The most difficult part is identifying your stress triggers. Most of the time we just continue in the rat race thinking this is normal.
Think about your actions AND your emotions (sometimes this is the easiest at the end of the day- but whatever works for you). Make a little self note of you might be reacting to a situation instead of responding to it.
Like I said, this is not easy. Even if you do know what your triggers are, the hardest part can be changing your reaction.
Short term rewards that aren’t beneficial to your health may seem great at the time (otherwise we wouldn’t do them!), but how are they affecting you long term.
Are you stimulating your nervous system instead of supporting it? (eating sweets, staying up late, watching copious amounts of T.V, drinking coffee or alcohol, eating take away foods with little nutritional value).
These go-to’s can be okay as a one off. But repeating this behaviour is not helping you in the long run. Try replacing these responses or actions with things that will nourish you. Here are some examples:
- Go for a walk
- Read a book
- Put yout T.V watching on a timer (30 minutes)
- Have a bath
- Go in a quiet room, close your eyes and notice the sensations of your breath as you breath in and out
- Ring a friend or relative – sharing (or venting) does wonders for your soul)
- Unplug- yep you heard me!
- Schedule some joy into your life
To help you identify your triggers, download my Know Your Triggers Work Sheet here
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