Don’t Stress About Stress
The end of the year is approaching fast.
That means holiday shopping, travel, holiday get-togethers…and extra stress.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the kind of stress your body was designed to handle.
How Your Body Handles Stress
A long, long time ago…our ancestors lived in a world that was full of threats to life and limb. Every day was a constant struggle to survive.
As a result, the human body evolved to respond to these threats with something we now call the “fight or flight” response.
Here’s how it works:
When your body is confronted with a threat, your adrenal glands respond by releasing the following stress hormones:
Cortisol performs several essential functions when your body faces a crisis.
In particular, it adjusts how your body metabolizes fats, carbohydrates, and proteins to give you a quick energy boost so you can deal with the threat at hand.
In smaller amounts, cortisol also suppresses inflammation, regulates your blood pressure, and helps to regulate your sleep cycle.
- Epinephrin and Norepinephrine
These hormones initiate the stress response. Epinephrin (also known as adrenaline) and norepinephrine increase your heart rate and boost your blood glucose levels. They also increase your blood pressure by making your blood vessels constrict. Again, all of the above is meant to prepare your body for dealing with a perceived threat.
Less well known than the other stress hormones, aldosterone signals your kidneys to release sodium into your bloodstream. This is just one more way your body can increase its blood pressure.
Overall, your stress hormones are designed to “rev” you up in response to a crisis.
For most of human history, this worked pretty well. Our cave dweller ancestors faced crises that mostly involved not getting eaten by predators. Once the threat was either escaped or defeated, their bodies could settle down and return to normal.
What About Today’s Stresses?
With modern stressors, stress hormones aren’t as helpful…mostly because the crises we generally face today don’t get resolved right away…they tend to linger on and on without a quick resolution.
You might have stress at work. There might be financial or relationship pressures. You might just be generally overcommitted. And on and on.
Unfortunately, your body only has the “fight or flight” response in its toolkit when it comes to managing stress. And if your adrenal glands continually release stress hormones for long periods of time…like weeks, months, or years…it could cause several long-term health problems. Some of these include:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain
- Loss of bone density
In addition, long term stress can lead to adrenal fatigue. When this happens, the adrenal glands become worn out…to the point where they can’t produce even the small amounts of important hormones like cortisol that are necessary for basic health and for getting through the day.
What You Can Do About It
The bad news is that long term stress is a fact of modern-day life. There are some stressors…like kids who are struggling in school, a boss you don’t like, or taking care of aging parents…that you just can’t get away from.
The good news? There are things you can do to help your body to effectively cope with stress…rather than letting it drag you down.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Get Regular Exercise
- Watch Your Diet
- Talk About It
- Get Your Hormones Tested
Put those stress hormones to positive use. They give you more energy, so use them to blow off steam with a run, a bike ride, or time at the gym. Plus, the endorphins your body generates during exercise will help to combat any feelings of depression you might have.
Your stress hormones will make you crave carb-rich comfort foods. Resist the temptation and go with better choices like lean protein, fruits, and vegetables. These better food choices will keep your blood sugar from spiking and crashing.
Don’t internalize your problems. This is a slippery slope that can lead to depression. Talk to your significant other, a trusted friend, or a therapist.
Long term stress can be aggravated by imbalances in hormones like estrogen, testosterone, and thyroid. The constant production of stress hormones can also cause deficiencies in other adrenal hormones like DHEA and pregnenolone. For cortisol, levels can be elevated in the short term, with deficiencies to follow as the adrenals become fatigued. Proper testing can help to diagnose these issues, and hormone therapy can help to resolve these imbalances.
At Renew Youth, we test your hormones and recommend effective solutions for stress-related imbalances using hormone replacement therapy, supplements, and lifestyle adjustments.
Don’t stress about the stress in your life. Let us help. Call us at 800-859-7511 or use our contact form to schedule your free 30-minute consultation.