Are you underestimating stress?
In our modern fast pace society, we have a tendency to underestimate the amount of stress we are under on a daily basis.
In the work I do with clients, one of the first things I asked them to do is re-define the word “stress”.
“Stress is anything that places a burden on the body resulting in inflammation or imbalance.”
Typically when we hear the word “stress” we think of mental or emotional stress, and common things such as challenges within our relationships or family, tough to deal with bosses, crappy coworkers, traffic, the loss of a loved one or friend, trying to meet expectations and deadlines.
But stress can also be:
- Foods you’re eating that aren’t right for your body or that cause inflammation
- Going to bed late or getting a bad night’s sleep (especially consistently)
- Over exercising or intense exercise when the body is already stressed
- Not exercising or moving your body enough regularly
- Toxins that you can’t alway see, hear or feel in your environment
- Nutrient deficiencies that you might be unaware of
- Tight muscle or joints that are out of alignment (specifically the spine)
- Traveling and crossing different time zones
No matter what the stressor might be, the body reacts in the same way, activating the sympathetic nervous system, more commonly known as your “fight or flight response.”
The fight or flight response is a brilliant but old primal instinct, that was originally developed to keep us safe from harm. This mechanism was developed to help us deal with acute, or short-term stress, not the low-grade constant stress we now encounter on a daily basis.
Here is the classic textbook example of this instinctual response…
If you were to encounter a lion on your lunch break, your body would activate the flight or fight response instantly, sending blood flow to your arms and legs for quick moving, and to your brain for quick thinking so you could find a way to outrun or out-smart the lion. You don’t have to think for a second about this, your body just does it – brilliant right?
While we don’t encounter lions on our lunch break, or in our daily lives at all (unless you’re at the Zoo or on a safari breaking the rules, LOL) – the body responds to our modern day stressors just the same – directing blood flow outward for quick action, leaving little resources for digestion or the vital actions needed to actually heal the body.
The smallest things in our daily routine can trigger the fight or flight response resulting in a decreased ability to digest food, combat colds and the flu, and which can ultimately add up leading to weight gain, hormone imbalances, low energy, poor sleep and generally not feeling like yourself.
Stuff that could be triggering the stress response in your body might be things you wouldn’t even think of such as watching the news, sitting in traffic during your typical commute even though your enjoying your favorite podcast, and working through your lunch break.
We underestimate the stress response because these actions or behaviors are so common.
In this week’s blog, I help you to identify if you’re underestimating the daily demands of stress on your body, and simple things you can do to destress, boost digestion and healing!
Let’s take a look at where you might be encountering subtle stress throughout the day without even realizing it…
Are you always on the run, stacked back-to-back with meetings, trying to get from one place to another on time, or feel like you’re “on” in your job or as a parent from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed?
Moving fast through life like this activates the fight or flight response all day long.
Do you find yourself drinking your smoothie or eating breakfast on the way to work, working through your lunch break, or rushing to get dinner on the table or eating dinner fast so you clean up after and get on with the rest of your nightly routine?
All of these actions induce the fight or flight response also.
Do you get worked up about our political climate, watching the news, scrolling Facebook or social media – all of these elicit the fight or flight response too.
See how quickly the amount of stress our body deals with on a daily basis can add up, without you even realizing it?
Constant subtle stressors add up quickly throughout the day, keeping the body in a constant fight or flight mode, resulting in minimal resources to aid in digestion and healing, leaving the body depleted, and eventually leading to a lack of energy, hormone imbalances, digestive upset and other health issues.
Imagine a red solo cup, and for every stressor you encounter one drop goes into your cup. If you don’t do something to minimize the number of drops or empty the cup it will eventually overflow. We can’t always control all of the stressors we encounter, but we can aim to minimize them as much as possible and to empty our cup throughout the day.
In order to maximize digestion and for the body to heal, you must be in a relaxed state.
Typically the only time we’re in a totally relaxed state in this modern day world is when we’re asleep, and that’s only if you’re a great sleeper. If you struggle with insomnia then your relaxed time is drastically diminished.
But even a good night’s rest isn’t enough anymore to combat the rising number of stressors and demands our body faces on a daily basis.
To support your ideal health and weight, you want to look for opportunities to slow down in your daily life so you can empty your stress cup and allow the body to heal and digest.
Here are a few ways you can easily empty your stress cup throughout the day:
- Do some deep breathing; inhale for 5 seconds, hold for 5 and exhale for 7
- Schedule breaks to get outside, get some fresh air and breath
- Chew bites 20 times or put down your fork in between bites to slow eating
- Create a daily meditation, journaling or tapping routine
- Cuddle or exchange hugs to boost oxytocin hormone which decreases stress hormones
These are super simple acts, that don’t require much effort, but can make a BIG difference in your overall health.
Other actions that help to reduce the overall stress burden include:
- Eating an anti-inflammatory diet
- Sleeping during the hours of 10pm – 6am
- Exercising at an intensity that is right for you
- And minimizing your exposure to stress inducing environmental toxins
Lastly, start to notice how stress shows up in your body, because it’s different for everyone. It could be in the form of aches and pains, skin rashes or breakouts, losing your hair, low energy, disrupted sleep, weight gain and more.
Once you get in tune with the signs of stress in your body, you can take quick action to empty your cup.
And if you’re not sure about how much stress your body might be dealing with, you can test instead of guessing by doing a dried urine total comprehensive hormone test to look at your stress hormone, cortisol, as well as other sex and steroid hormones that will reveal insights about the overall burden of stress your body is under.
If you’d like to get your hands on the right lab tests and resources to measure your body’s stress burden and strategies to reduce it, then click here to schedule a Health Discovery Call where I can help identify YOUR stressors!