Sure, we all have stress, but what can it actually do to you?
Let’s first start with the autonomic nervous system. This area is broken down into two other systems: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. These systems are responsible for the involuntary reactions your body has to different situations. The sympathetic nervous system is the “fight or flight” response when you are in danger or stressed out. The parasympathetic nervous system is the “rest and digest” response your body has when things, and you, are calm. These two systems create a balance of hormones in the body that help you react to the daily struggles of life.
Now let’s break it down a little further. The sympathetic nervous system, when activated, will heighten your reflexes, increase adrenaline production, dilate the pupils, and increase the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol, an adrenal hormone, regulates blood sugar, fat, protein and carb metabolism, immune responses, blood pressure, and a host of other responses. Not so bad. These functions are essential during situations that could be life-threatening. But when cortisol is released for an extended period of time it can cause thought and decision making processes to be stunted, thyroid functions to fall, blood sugar to creep higher, immunity to weaken, and blood pressure to heighten. Beginning to see the problem here?
If the body continues to stay so stressed out, eventually the production of cortisol will fall, but this doesn’t mean anything good. This will cause adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue can cause, among other things, lowered thyroid functions, lowered blood sugar, lowered blood pressure, lowered immunity, and general fatigue. The symptoms present themselves differently in different people, but for most, the symptoms are the same. These can include things like salty food cravings, heightened energy at night, not sleeping well, irritability, dizziness, dry skin, increased allergy responses, joint pain, weight gain, and several others.
All this from stress? Yes, it can be. Is there any good news? I’m so glad you asked!
The other part of the autonomic nervous systems is the parasympathetic side, also known as the “rest and digest” system. This balances out our “fight or flight” side and will lower heart rate, increase digestive activity, constrict the pupils, and basically maintains homeostasis, or balance, of the body. This is what happens when you lose the stress and calm down.
Almost seems to good to be true, right? Just relax and your sleep gets better? Or you can think better? Yes. But it won’t be an overnight fix. You didn’t get this stressed out overnight, there isn’t an overnight cure. But, depending on if you have adrenal fatigue and what stage, you may feel some slight immediate results, if only temporary.
So what are some things that you can do to get rid of your stress? Well, of course, I have to name massage as number one. I feel it would be careless of me not to. Especially since massage can trigger, almost immediately, the “rest and digest” system. But also, try to get enough rest, read a book, take a bath, meditate, do yoga, do a workout, keep a journal, whatever makes you feel calm and collected. Whatever makes you stop and take a breath. And don’t compare yourself to someone else. Yoga may work work for some, but for others it may be a hard core sweat session at the gym, or an opportunity to catch up on some recreational reading. Everybody is different and that’s true about every aspect of life.
For more ideas on how to stress less, check out our Pinterest page and the board called Self Care Tips and Tricks or click here. You can also do a search on Google and Pinterest for self care or stress less. There are so many ways to help yourself feel better.
Have a Beautiful Day!