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Health Blog


Chronic Stress, Impact on the Body....

Stress can be defined as any type of change that causes physical, emotional, or psychological strain. Stress is your body's response to anything that requires attention or action. Everyone experiences stress in different ways. The way your body responds to stress may set the stage for how you succumb or recover from chronic illness.

A certain amount of stress is natural. It allows you to protect yourself from harm or dangerous situations by running or fighting. However, when stressors are always present and you constantly feel under attack, that fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on. Resulting in TOO MUCH STRESS…. This long-term activation of the stress response system and the overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can disrupt almost all your body's processes - in both short-term and long-term.

Cortisol is triggered when our brain perceives a threat to our safety. This is often known as fight or flight. Excess cortisol can be to blame for digestive issues, aging (wrinkles), sleep issues, weight changes, decreased immune response....and many other issues. Fight or flight is important for short situations. BUT…we are NOT meant to live in this manner!

Unfortunately, today, much of our “stress” starts in the palm of our hand:

  • Our phones - These devices are helpful and necessary, but this little electronic device keeps us in a constant state of "response". (Emails, social media, Texts and Phone calls) It’s hard to sit and relax when there’s a device constantly "notifying" you. DING, BING, CHIME…. Each noise DEMANDS our attention, our response, and our focus. Often, we feel “stressed if we can’t answer immediately or if we are unable to “get a signal” or download a message immediately. This little noisemaker is the biggest contributor to our inability to relax and remain “present”.

  • Social Media - Prior to social media you were likely exposed to fewer people and those you were exposed to; you saw them as they were. In todays world, with the introduction of Photoshop, filters and the "highlight reels" it’s easy to compare ourselves to the perception that others convey. Our looks, homes, lifestyles. Social Media can add so much unnecessary stress and pressure to “keep up with the Joneses”.

  • Overstimulation - With the number of TV shows we can watch, books to read, social media platforms, or apps to try, our brain can feel scattered and frantic at all the possibilities around us. Then when you factor in high stress jobs, juggling a career and raising children… our stress levels just skyrocket.

  • Everyday - Then there are stresses that have always been a part of daily life. Relationships. Grief. Loss. Careers. Daily errands. Children. Finances. (The list goes on and on)

When stimulated, our brain cannot tell the difference from the intense stress of a text message vs. a grizzly bear suddenly crossing your path. Cortisol is triggered and a response made for fight or flight. At the recurring frequency this happens, we find ourselves living in a state of chronic fight or flight.

Many factors determine how rapidly you will heal. Your physical condition, your current immune state, genetics, coping mechanisms, and pre-existing conditions all come into play, but STRESS is a major contributing factor in the end result. Many scientific studies have shown the detrimental effects that chronic stress can have on overall healing. Our immunity at the cellular level is severely impacted and the chemical cascade needed for healing is interrupted.

When the body has an overabundance of cortisol, the high levels interfere with the production of anti-inflammatory substances called cytokines. This results in your body becoming inflamed systemically. This systemic inflammation affects our ability to repair and recover, making it more difficult to heal.

Stress triggers a combination of signals within the body from both hormones and nerves. These signals cause your adrenal glands to release hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. The result is an increased heart rate and energy as part of the fight-or-flight response. It’s your body’s way of preparing itself for threats, danger or harmful situations. Cortisol helps to limit any functions that aren’t essential in a fight-or-flight situation. (You don’t need to digest food, boost your immune system or think analytically if you are trying to survive a bear!) Once the threat passes, your hormones return to normal levels, and bodily functions resuming normalcy. BUT, when you’re under constant stress, this response doesn’t always turn off. The body stays stuck in a state of fight or flight. The body cant switch back to “rest and digest.” This is when chronic illness can emerge. The immune system stays suppressed and may eventually turn on itself contributing to autoimmune conditions. Your digestion and absorption are impacted, and your gut lining becomes compromised. You may exhibit heart related issues or disease, high blood pressure, and blood vessel problems.

Lung issues develop, you are prone to infections because of a weakened immune system.

Obesity, diabetes, and increased fat accumulation occur. You may develop osteoporosis and muscle loss, along with many other systemic issues.

Long-term exposure to cortisol and other stress hormones can negatively affect almost all of your body’s processes. When the body is stuck in fight or flight it can lead to disruptions in everything from basic life skills like sleeping, self-care and eating, to complexities like learning and self-soothing.

Prednisone is a prescription glucocorticoid, which is a synthetic steroid that is similar to cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone that the adrenal glands produce. (Some people refer to it as the stress hormone.) However, chronically high cortisol levels is no different than long term exposure to steroids like Prednisone. Doctors don’t like to keep you on steroids for very long due to the multiple side effects that can occur…. Chronically high cortisol results in the SAME issues. The adrenal glands make this steroid hormone, but the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis controls how much your body releases. Most of the cells in your body have cortisol receptors. They use it for a variety of functions, such as:

  • blood sugar regulation

  • inflammation reduction

  • metabolism regulation

  • memory formulation

Cortisol is important for your health, however too much of it can cause harm and several unwanted symptoms.

The rewards for learning to manage stress can include peace of mind, less stress and anxiety, a better quality of life, improvement in physical symptoms and conditions, better self-control, better focus, and even better relationships. And it might even lead to a longer, healthier life.

Some things you can do to help your body naturally reduce its cortisol levels:

  1. Have a bedtime routine. Establish a consistent bedtime routine so your brain and body start winding down for the night.

  2. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. A regular sleep schedule has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to improve cortisol levels.

  3. Exercise earlier in the day. Exercising regularly. It should be done at least 2–3 hours before bedtime.

  4. Limit caffeine intake. Caffeine triggers cortisol release.

  5. Avoid nicotine and alcohol. Both substances can increase cortisol levels.

  6. Limit exposure to bright light at night. Around 45–60 minutes before sleep, reduce your exposure to bright and/or blue light. Instead of reaching for your phone in bed, try reading a book or listening to a podcast. This relaxes the brain and body and will help reduce cortisol levels.

  7. Go to bed in a quiet room. Limit interruptions by using ear plugs and silencing your phone. Listening to the Solfeggio Tones while relaxing or during the hours you sleep helps to reduce cortisol levels.

A consistent sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine 6 hours before bed, and staying off your cell phone right before bed are effective strategies you can begin implementing immediately.

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