Levels of stress are currently high, globally. The COVID-19 epidemic has brought about an unprecedented era of fear, panic and stress. Even if you’re young, healthy, financially supported and not particularly stressed – stress is spreading in society, lowering your vibration and causing issues with your mental and physical health. Here’s how stress is impacting you.
Why is stress bad?
When you feel stressed, your body and mind are shifting to respond to the stressor. This is an evolutionary adaptation. Back in the time of our ancestors, stress was a sign that something was going wrong – a predator was approaching, our tribe was under threat, we ate something bad and our body was trying to get rid of it – and so on. When our mind and body acknowledge the stressor, we go into ‘fight or flight mode’ this is essentially preparing our mind and body to do one of two things: either fight the stressor or flee the stressor.
As you can imagine, this was an evolutionary advantage that helped protect our ancestors from dying. However, in the 21st century, most of us aren’t under the same kind of imminent stress and so continually being in ‘fight or flight’ mode becomes an evolutionary disadvantage. Stress doesn’t just make you feel sad or anxious, the effects run deeper than that – here’s how it impacts your entire system.
Did you know that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, stomach pain, bloating, constipation, diarrhea and a number of other gastrointestinal issues are psychosomatic? Psychosomatic means that the condition is exacerbated – if not entirely created – by stress and mental disturbance. Due to the gut-brain axis – the vagus nerve – if you’re consistently struggling with gut and digestive issues, your stressed brain might be to blame.
When you feel stressed, your heart rate increases, causing stronger contractions of the heart muscles, elevating blood pressure and the dilation of the blood vessels. In times of acute stress, like when you have to slam the breaks in a car because someone pulls out too quickly, your body goes back to normal after the source of stress has left. However, in chronic stress, your heart is put under immense strain and your blood vessels are damaged; causing hypertension, heart attack or stroke.
The autonomic nervous system can be separated into two systems: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. When we are stressed, we are in a sympathetic state, causing a release of adrenaline and cortisol as part of the fight or flight response.
Stress causes the body to tense up, this is an evolutionary adaptation to prepare you to fight or flee predators. However, if stress levels are chronically high, your body is chronically tight. This causes muscle pain, tension and reduced mobility.
Think of the last time you felt seriously stressed – I can almost guarantee you felt short of breath or experienced rapid breathing. This is because stress puts pressure on the respiratory system, constricting the airway between the nose and the lungs. This is why deep breathing is extremely important for stress relief.
The endocrine system is responsible for the release of hormones to maintain homeostasis in the body. When you’re stressed, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis releases stress hormones called glucocorticoids, including cortisol. In chronic stress, elevated cortisol can reduce immune function, causing chronic fatigue, depression and immune disorders.
Stress also causes issues with your reproductive system, including delayed periods, infertility, reduced sexual desire, premature menopause and intensified premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
So how do you reduce stress?
The number one way to reduce stress is BREATHE. Read this article to learn more about how breathing benefits you.
If you are experiencing constant stress, please contact me to discuss ways to reduce your stress levels naturally.