Is stress really bad for you? In this post you’ll find what stress is, the effects, and well as ways to reduce it.
I just got done celebrating a special birthday and had family over for a few nights, and I’m exhausted in the most wonderful way. Luckily I’ve been ahead on a few blog posts so I was able to take a couple weeks off.
Getting back into the rhythm of blogging has been tough. I enjoy sharing and teaching, but it starts to become this burden when I feel like I’m fighting my different identities: mom, wife, blogger, teacher, and not to mention who I am at my core!
I know I’ll never have balance in my life. It’s this abstract term we use, but have you ever stopped for a second to define what balance is? Probably not because it doesn’t exist.
Through this brain dump of thoughts, I thought it best to address stress. I’ve been playing with the thought of sharing about stress for awhile because the truth is, I live with anxiety and maybe this topic can resonate with one of you. But also I feel that in sharing about the harmful effects of stress, that you may look at your life differently and make positive changes.
Selfishly, I want to write about stress too, because then if something comes up in my life, I can be transparent with you and allow myself to take a break because you’ll now know the harms stress plays on your body.
After all, I am a mother first and foremost. As you know things come up unexpectedly in life whether it’s a loss in the family, a sick child, or just a really hectic week. My family will always come first and when I do spend some time on the blog, I do want to be in a good headspace. When I feel calmer and less stressed, I can write my posts with better quality and in this day-and-age where we’ll filled with constant information, it’s a breath of fresh air to read a piece of content with heart & knowledge.
What Is Stress?
Before I even talk about stress, let’s first define what it is: Stress is how your body reacts to a challenge. It can come from both good and bad events in your life. But I don’t necessarily want to portray stress has something we’re fighting against. I mean, doesn’t that sound stressful, in and of itself?
I like to think of stress as a normal human function, because that’s what it is. We need it to stay alive.
For me, when I hear about all the harmful effects of stress I tend to stress then that I’m stressing. Changing your mindset about stress can be an incredible thing! I linked a YouTube video below that I think will do just the trick!
Ways Your Body Feels Stress
The problem that I have with the topic around stress is that we’ve been lead to believe that stress is simply a feeling. But when I started studying more about the topic, I found there to be other ways that our bodies can experience stress. For instance I used to get tension headaches pretty regularly. The cause of it was always different which confused me.
Some days it was because I felt like I couldn’t get everything done, other days it was because I didn’t get enough sleep, and sometimes it was right after I had a strenuous workout session.
The thing I want you to realize is that stress is more than a feeling! Stress is:
- Not eating enough
- Not getting enough bioavailable nutrients
- Environmental toxins
- Over exercise
- EMF exposure
- Poor light quality
- Poorly filtered water
- Little sleep or poor quality sleep
- Diet culture mindset and being afraid that something you eat will hurt you
These are all stress to our body. Consciously, you may not thing of it as stress, but your body doesn’t know the difference and responds the same no matter what the stressor is.
And the wonderful thing about most of these stressors, is that you have control over them. These are simple things like cleaning up your household products, getting enough sleep, strength training rather than cardio, filtering your water, etc.
Harmful Effects of Stress
I wanted to dive in and explain what happens to your body as it responds to stress.
When stress is perceived by your body, a message goes to your hypothalamus (H) and your pituitary gland (P) to communicate with your adrenal glands (A), where cortisol is released to respond to and get you away from danger. This is the HPA axis.
When you are constantly activating your HPA axis it starts to erode its resilience (your capacity to withstand stress) and it depletes the body’s nutrient stores.
In the event that this happens, your body shifts its response from those activities that require more energy like digestion, reproductive and repair functions, to energy saving behaviors like slowed metabolism and weight gain.
Stress will eventually slow thyroid function, resulting in hypothyroidism.
- Stress makes the thyroid less sensitive to TSH.
- Stress decreases conversion of T4 to the active form T3.
- Stress makes your cells less receptive to thyroid hormones.
- Stress increases your risk of developing autoimmunity conditions.
Women Experience the Effects of Stress More Than Men
The hormone that is activated in times of stress is cortisol. Of course, this is great because it’s a normal human function. If a lion is chasing you, your fight or flight kicks in and you react.
The problem today is living in a hustle and bustle world causing many of us to feel the effects long term.
When stress happens, your brain tells the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to communicate with the adrenals and release cortisol.
High cortisol that occurs from stress decreases the hypothalamus’s GnRH secretion, which is responsible for triggering the pituitary to release FSH and LH (which tells the ovaries to produce estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone):
- Over time, the production of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone goes down, disrupting your periods.
- Cortisol also blocks progesterone receptors, creating progesterone deficiency. Progesterone deficiency can cause PMS, anxiety, & fertility issues).
When Does Stress Occur?
Stress occurs when our cell’s need for energy exceeds its ability to produce energy.
That means there are primarily 2 ways stress gets activated.
- Your cells have an increased need for energy that exceeds normal energy production capabilities.
- Your cells have a limited ability to produce energy that cannot match normal needs.
Basically, not enough energy is able to be produced with healthy, oxidative metabolism, caused an increase in the stress, glycolytic metabolism, and/or fat burning.
Our thoughts become our emotions, which then translate into a physiological response.
Lifestyle is just as important as diet!
Choose Your Thoughts Wisely!
This is why my dream is to one day move away from the suburbs and live in the country surrounded by nature. You can reduce stress, but you have to make an intentional effort to do so.
You cannot reduce stress if you’re attached to your TV, phone, computer, etc. Concentrate on making your body more resilient to stress by being intentional on what you’re choosing to participate in.
Right now, my lifestyle is about balance. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t even have a smartphone. Social media draws up a lot of anxiety for me. But I am only getting on my phone when it is business related. And when you support my blog and purchase through my links, you’re getting me one step closer to that dream of land one day.
Burnout happens when you overload yourself and your senses.
Below I provide not only actionable steps, but some lifestyle choices you can make as well.
My Favorite Stress Reducers
If you’ve followed me for sometime, you know that I will never make you aware of a problem, without giving you a solution. Obviously this will look different because we all have different likes and personalities. But for me, great stress reducers are:
- Getting out in nature
- Playing a game to get me out of my head
- Going for a walk
- Watching mindless tv with my husband
- Connecting with friends
- Going to sleep early
- Detoxing from social media
- Nourishing my body and eating enough
- Balancing my blood sugar
Easy, Actionable Steps To Get You Out of Fight or Flight Mode
- Eat a balanced meal: Your meals should contain a protein, fat, and carb. This will dial down the production of cortisol
- Breath work: When you’re under stress, you naturally breathe shallow. To initiate the relaxation response, take long, slow, & diaphragmatic breaths.
- Get out in nature: Simply 10 minutes in nature decreases cortisol levels.
- Concentrate on herbs: There are specific herbs that enhance your body’s response to stress like holy basil, ashwagandha and oatstraw. They are cortisol-calming and very soothing.
- Focus on minerals. Stress depletes the minerals in your body. I up my intake of shilajit tablets. My favorite brand is Mitigate Stress.
Lifestyle Changes To Help You With Stress
- Live a slower lifestyle
- Become aware of your problem
- Name the contributors
- Plan breaks
- Ask for help
- Allow help
- Recite truth
- More gratitude
- Get in community
- Allow flexibility if possible
- Stop carrying loads that aren’t yours
- Health boundaries
- Practice saying “No!”
- Move your body
- Fuel well
- Less criticizing
- Stop comparing
- Read a book
- Listen to soft music
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