We all have some level of stress, this is true for everybody.
It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic).
Acute stress usually won’t mess with your health too much. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances, and can even be life-saving. Then, when the “threat” (a.k.a. “stressor”) is gone, the reaction subsides, and all is well.
Acute stress includes things like exercise, and acute stress can be beneficial, allowing our bodies to adapt and get stronger – immune system, muscles, internal organs.
It's the chronic stress that's a problem. Your body has specific stress reactions. If these stress reactions are triggered every day or many times a day that can mess with your health.
Stress (and stress hormones) can have a huge impact on your health. This is even more prevalent at menopause, as years of chronic stress play havoc with your hormones, and then all sorts of symptoms raise their ugly heads!
So what happens when you’re in a "stress mess."
Mess #1 - Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes
Anything that increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes (both serious, chronic conditions) needs to be discussed first up.
Stress increased the risk for heart disease and diabetes by promoting chronic inflammation, affecting your blood "thickness," as well as how well your cells respond to insulin.
Mess #2 - Immunity
Did you notice that you get sick more often when you're stressed? Maybe you get colds, cold sores, or even the flu more frequently when you are stressed?
Well, that's because stress hormones affect the chemical messengers (cytokines) secreted by immune cells consequently, they are less able to do their jobs effectively.
Mess #3 - "Leaky Gut."
Stress can contribute to leaky gut, otherwise known as "intestinal permeability." These "leaks" can then allow partially digested food, bacteria or other things to be absorbed into your body.
The stress hormone cortisol can open up tiny holes by loosening the grip your digestive cells have to each other.
Have you ever played "red rover?" It's where a row of children hold hands while one runs at them to try to break through. Think of those hands as the junctions between cells. When they get loose, they allow things to get in that should be passing right though. Cortisol (produced in excess in chronic stress) is a strong player in red rover!
Mess #4 - Sleep Disruption
Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand. It’s often difficult to sleep when you have very important (and stressful) things on your mind.
And when you don't get enough sleep, it affects your energy level, memory, ability to think, and mood.
More and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your health. Not enough sleep (and too much stress) aren't doing you any favours.
Reducing stressors in your life is an obvious first step.
●Put less pressure on yourself?
●Ask for help?
●Delegate to someone else?
●Finally, make that decision?
No matter how hard you try, you won’t eliminate stress altogether. So, here are a few things you can try to help reduce its effect on you:
●Walk in nature
●Unplug (read a book, take a bath)
●Exercise (yoga, tai chi, etc.)
●Connect with loved ones
To Sum It All Up
Stress is a huge and often underappreciated factor in our health. It can impact your physical body much more than you might realize.
Stress has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes, affect your immune system, digestion and sleep.
There are things you can do to both reduce stressors, and also to improve your response to it.
You can dump that stress mess!
Recipe (relaxing chamomile): Chamomile Peach Iced Tea
1 cup brewed chamomile tea, cooled
1 peach, diced
Place both ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add ice if desired.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can use fresh or tinned peaches (just get the ones in juice, not syrup!).
I am a Certified Precision Nutrition (Pn1) Coach – if you have any questions or would like to know more, I am more than happy to chat to you. You can contact me here 😊
Click below to listen to a podcast episode I was interviewed for, about building resilience and my journey to being a Health Coach