In the modern world most of us experience some form of stress on a regular basis. Regular stress can result in some nasty side effects such as fatigue, mood swings, frequent illness, headaches, panic attacks, anxiety and depression. By understanding what happens in our bodies when we are stressed it is easier to put preventative measures in place to support and improve our body’s well-being. So what happens in our bodies and what are some self stress management techniques?
Our adrenal glands secrete stress hormones including adrenalin and cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels suppress the immune system’s ability to work effectively. Vitamin D is important for a healthy immune system so during times of stress or during winter when we get less sunlight, vitamin D supplementation can play a vital role in supporting our immune system. Visiting your GP to check your vitamin D levels is important before starting supplements.
Two other stress hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline, initiate the fight or flight response in our body. When these hormones are released you generally feel an increase in heart rate and breathing rate. This is fine for a short period of time but if these stress hormones are elevated for long periods it can have a negative effect on the cardiovascular system.
To keep our cardiovascular system healthy we should aim to exercise for 30–60 minutes 5x per week and make some simple changes to our diet – increasing water intake to 1.5 – 2 litres per day, minimising salt intake, consuming a moderate amount of saturated fats and increasing good fats like omega 3 (olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds). Many people don’t get enough omega 3 in their diet so supplementation with a good quality fish oil high in omega 3 can also help. See your GP to see if supplementation is necessary for you.
How Hormones Work | Self Stress Management
One function of cortisol is to increase blood sugar levels for energy in a stressful situation. Long term stress and extended increase of blood sugar levels is not good for our bodies. When there’s a spike in blood sugar our pancreas secretes insulin. Insulin causes receptor cells in the liver, skeletal, and fat tissue to take up glucose from the blood. When there is too much insulin in our bodies on a regular basis these receptors become numb and resistant and our bodies can’t take up glucose the way it’s supposed to. This can cause insulin resistance which can lead to weight gain and type 2 diabetes.
Stress & Diet | Self Stress Management
During times of stress we often reach for quick convenient foods, thus consuming large quantities of refined carbohydrates and sugar, causing a complete overload of glucose in our blood. The liver produces cholesterol from glucose and the more glucose in the blood the more bad cholesterol produced. An excess of bad cholesterol can lead to heart disease. To keep our digestive system healthy we should increase good fats to help manage cholesterol, decrease sugar intake by avoiding refined carbs and decreasing alcohol intake. We should also aim to decrease caffeine intake around meal times as it diverts blood away from the gut which can affect digestion.
Chronic Stress & Muscles
Chronic stress causes muscle tension / contraction of the muscles. This muscle tension can cause many issues such as pain dysfunction and poor sleep further exacerbating the stress and creating a vicious cycle. Try implementing a simple stretch program on a nightly basis to reduce tension that has been created throughout the day and help you get a better nights sleep. Check out our stretch library for some ideas.
In summary, think about asking your health practitioner about beneficial dietary supplements, make simple dietary changes, do regular exercise, keep your muscles relaxed and of course introduce some self stress management techniques.
Melbourne Natural Therapies
Self Stress Management