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We are living through stressful times. There are things happening in the world that are out of our control and can make us feel anxious, moody, or frustrated. But how do you know if or how stress is affecting your health? We are going to dive in to how stress manifests in our daily health and give you 8 tools to turn it around! 

 

What does stress feel like?

Stress can result from as little as one incident, such as a work deadline, a car accident, or it can be from an accumulation of chronic repeating daily stressors. The feeling of being stressed can be different from person to person. For some just the feeling of being out of control (as many of us feel during a pandemic), current cultural unrest, or a highly tense upcoming election can be the cause of our stress. Add this to the already stressful lives many of us have with career or family responsibilities, and it could be easy to feel overwhelmed. If you are reading this, most likely you know what stress feels like and you want some healthy, easy ways to help cope and even thrive during stressful times.

 

The hormones of stress.

Stress is simply a perceived stimulus in the part of your brain dedicated to survival, the lizard brain. Information from the perceived stressor (eg; traffic, social injustices, financial worries) gets sent to the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that determines the reaction needed to survive the stress. In turn, the hypothalamus then sends signals to the lower brain (the pituitary gland) which turns on or off the production of adrenal hormones responsible for motivating the body to act (fight or flight). The main fight or flight stress hormones produced by the adrenal glands are epinephrine/norepinephrine (also known as adrenalin/noradrenalin) and cortisol. These are the hormones that wreak havoc on our health. This system is called the H-P-A Axis.

 

Symptoms of too much stress.

The stress hormones have a complex effect on the entire body resulting in things like inflammation, digestive problems, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and hormonal imbalances.

You might be struggling to manage stress if you are experiencing any of the following:
  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Anxiety
  • Moodiness or low mood
  • Irritability
  • Headaches or body pain
  • Food cravings
  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Depression
  • Low libido
  • Weight gain (or loss)
  • Digestive problems
  • Problems falling or staying asleep
  • Hair loss
  • Menstrual irregularities and PMS
  • High or low blood pressure 
  • Inability to tolerate extreme heat or cold temperatures
  • Muscle cramping or twitching
  • Vision changes
  • Difficulty conceiving and/or risk of miscarriage

 

What can I do about stress?

The problem with stress is oftentimes we can’t eliminate it, which makes identifying if it is affecting your health even harder. We can’t quit our job, avoid traffic, or hire a nanny. However, there are many things you can do to change the way your body experiences and responds to stress.

Here are 8 tools to turn things around!
  1. Diet: Eat a highly nutrient dense diet. This means a plant-based diet with as few processed foods as possible. Check out our Gluten-Free Meditaranean Diet to use as a guideline.
  2. Exercise: Move your body everyday and get your heart rate up with physical activity at least 3 times per week. Watch this amazing video about the Single Best Thing You Can Do For Your Health.
  3. Relaxation: Get a plan in place for a stress management routine. Give back to yourself what stress takes from you everyday by doing something relaxing. Things such as daily meditation or breathing exercises, bubble baths, and getting a massage can help rejuvenate the body and mind and detox from stress.
  4. Herbs: There are some very specific supplements that combat the effects of stress and help keep the adrenal glands healthy. There are powerful herbs that help balance the H-P-A Axis called “adrenal adaptogens”. They help improve the stress response as well as energy, mood, and sleep and can block the negative effects of stress. Here is Dr. Crawford’s formulation, “Adrenal Protect” by Naturkur Wellness.
  5. Nutritional supplements: B vitamins especially vitamins B5 and B6, as well as vitamin C help to restore adrenal health. Activated B vitamins are best because they are of higher quality and in more usable forms so you aren’t wasting money. Here is an example of a multivitamin that has a high potency of B vitamins in the activated forms.
  6. Seek guided assistance: Naturopathic physicians are often the best choice to help with stress and adrenal health from a physiological standpoint. Conventional medicine does not recognize the condition that stress causes (adrenal fatigue syndrome) therefore cannot help address it. We also recommend counseling to help identify and shift mental patterns we may have with the processing of stressful situations. 
  7. Get tested: Adrenal stress testing can identify your stage of adrenal fatigue (there are 4 stages) as well as any hormonal changes that have occurred due to stress. Things like estrogen dominance (progesterone deficiency), low estrogen or testosterone, or disruption of sleep-wake hormones can be measured and treated naturally! You can purchase an at-home Adrenal and Hormone Test Kit to find out how stress is affecting your health. No appointment necessary!
  8. Social connection: Beef up your social circle by scheduling regular (virtual) meetups with your besties to remember that you are loved and supported. It’s important to remember that we aren’t alone. Let those that cause more stress drop off. Life is too short to keep folks around who don’t lift you up!

 

 

Resources: https://blog.zencare.co/signs-stress-is-making-you-sick/