by Dr. Brooke Azie-Rentz, ND
a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.
As I sit here writing this article that is 2 weeks late, dealing with new hires, family in town, ailing family out of town, young children and where to send them to school, etc., I define stress as something a little more realistic, something that I can feel right now! Stress can be positive or negative. It can push us to achieve things beyond our wildest dreams, or it can cause a strong person to end up sobbing in the corner, exhausted, not knowing if they can go on. In this month’s newsletter, we talk about the negative side of stress.
There are 10 significant health issues that have been directly related to stress: heart disease, asthma, obesity, diabetes, headaches, depression/anxiety, GI issues, accelerated aging, Alzheimer’s disease and premature death. Stress is the cause for these diseases. For example, stress causes us to partake in habits such as smoking or drinking to “de-stress”, which in turn leads to diseases such as asthma, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity… which in turn makes us depressed…then we don’t sleep well and are too tired to exercise… which leads to heart disease, obesity and diabetes… basically a vicious downward spiral. The choices we make when we are stressed can have a direct impact on our health, yet cortisol, the hormone produced when we are under stress, can have detrimental effects all on its own.
Cortisol is made by your adrenals in response to all different kinds of stress. It is the hormone that allows us to pull all-nighters, juggle 10 balls in the air, train for a marathon and heal from a broken leg…sometimes all at the same time. But if we never give our bodies a chance to return to a normal, non stressed state, the negative side effects of cortisol excess and eventual exhaustion can be debilitating, even deadly. Cortisol is known to increase your heart rate and blood pressure (BP), makes you more sensitive to insulin, and is even your natural alarm clock that wakes you up in the morning. If you have too much cortisol, your BP will go up, you start craving sugar, and you wake up at all times of the night, if you can sleep at all. And don’t get me started on the need for 8 hours of sleep per night! So you can see, cortisol can be helpful and positive at stressful times in our life, but when we don’t deal with stress, the long term effects of cortisol on our bodies has serious detrimental effects.
Your ability to tolerate stress depends on many factors, including the quality of your relationships, your general outlook on life, your emotional intelligence and awareness, your genetics, or predisposition to certain diseases. Here are a couple of pointers to minimize the effects of stress on your health:
- Set aside relaxation time. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the stress response.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress. Nothing beats aerobic exercise for releasing pent-up stress and tension. Dr. Brooke recommends a cathartic release to stress including punching bags, breaking plates, screaming, and dancing.
- Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress. Start your day with a healthy breakfast, reduce your caffeine and sugar intake, and cut back on alcohol and nicotine.
- Get plenty of sleep. Feeling tired can increase stress by causing you to think irrationally. Keep your cool by getting a good night’s sleep.
Remember, here at AIM we offer all kinds of things to help you deal with stress including massage, acupuncture, IV therapy, and supplementation. We are here to help you find the balance in life and be the healthiest you can be.