We all have some level of stress, right? And even though Stress is given a bad rap, we NEED it to thrive!
It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic).
Acute stress usually won’t mess with your health too much. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances, and can even be life-saving.
Then, when the “threat” (a.k.a. “stressor”) is gone, the reaction subsides, and all is well.
It's the chronic stress that's a problem. You see, your body has specific stress reactions. If these stress reactions are triggered every day or many times a day that can mess with your health.
Stress (and stress hormones) can have a huge impact on your health.
Let's dive into the "stress mess."
Mess #1 - Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes
Why save the best for last? Anything that increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes (both serious, chronic conditions) needs to be discussed.
Stress increased the risk for heart disease and diabetes by promoting chronic inflammation, affecting your blood "thickness," as well as how well your cells respond to insulin.
Mess #2 - Immunity
Did you notice that you get sick more often when you're stressed? Maybe you get colds, cold sores, or even the flu more frequently when you are stressed?
Well, that's because stress hormones affect the chemical messengers (cytokines) secreted by immune cells, consequently, they are less able to do their jobs effectively. Stress slows down the ability of the immune system’s response.
Mess #3 - "Leaky Gut"
Stress can contribute to leaky gut, otherwise known as "intestinal permeability." These "leaks" can then allow partially digested food, bacteria or other things to be absorbed into your body.
The stress hormone cortisol can open up tiny holes by loosening the grip your digestive cells have to each other.
Picture this: Have you ever played "red rover?" It's where a row of children hold hands while one runs at them to try to break through. Think of those hands as the junctions between cells. When they get loose, they allow things to get in that should be passing right though. Cortisol (produced in excess in chronic stress) is a strong player in red rover! Foods that help reduce cortisol include celery, walnuts and beets; and reduce your sodium intake too!
Mess #4 - Sleep Disruption
Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand, wouldn’t you agree? It’s often difficult to sleep when you have very important (and stressful) things on your mind.
And when you don't get enough sleep, it affects your energy level, memory, ability to think, and mood.
More and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your health. Not enough sleep (and too much stress) isn’t doing you any favors. It’s also WHAT you’re doing before going to sleep that can help you have a restful sleep, or not. Turn off all electronics one hour before bed – if you want to read, put down the Kindle, Nook or whatever tablet you are using & get an actual book. You know the kind, made with paper! Listen to calming music, meditate, journal, etc.
Reducing stressors in your life is an obvious first step. Can you:
Put less pressure on yourself?
Ask for help?
Delegate to someone else?
Finally, make that decision?
No matter how hard you try, you won’t eliminate stress altogether. So, here are a few things you can try to help reduce its effect on you:
Walk in nature
Unplug (read a book, take a bath)
Exercise (yoga, tai chi, etc.)
Connect with loved ones
Journal – gratitude, “brain dump” then burn/shred it, goals.
Stress is a huge and often underappreciated factor in our health. It can impact your physical body much more than you might realize.
Stress has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes, affect your immune system, digestion and sleep.
There are things you can do to both reduce stressors and also to improve your response to it.
You can ditch that stress mess!
Recipe (relaxing chamomile): Chamomile Peach Iced Tea
1 cup steeped chamomile tea, cooled
1 peach, diced
Place both ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add ice if desired.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: You can use fresh or frozen peaches.