For most of us, an average day begins in a state of rush. We wake up tired, stressed out, rush to get ready, skip breakfast, fuel up with coffee…so on and so on…
Let’s learn about stress
Stress is insidious; constantly drawing on our health reserves, and – from years of clinical observation – underscores or contributes to the vast majority of modern illness. In a healthy individual, acute stress, which can manifest as anxiety, irritation, panic attacks, lack of sleep, sensitivity, overwhelm, pain, fatigue, forgetfulness, angriness or impatience, is speedily resolved. It’s when stress evolves into a long-standing, chronic condition that it becomes detrimental.
How does stress tax our body?
I like to use the analogy of a bank account. We are each born with a unique health ‘savings account’ – some are granted extra funds (via genetics, early diet, happiness, a healthy environment) while others enter the world already depleted. Each time we experience stress it draws on our reserves, syphoning credit away and gradually eating into our squirrelled stash. Eventually we enter the red – the timing is different for everyone, and once ‘bankrupt’, illness can emerge.
First however, we must acknowledge the different types of stress, for it’s not all doom and disaster. The detrimental effects of chronic stress are well documented, yet in its acute form – a broken leg, a nasty infection, an emotional upheaval – stress is a completely normal physiological reaction. It is a protective mechanism, a beautifully orchestrated design – not always a negative. Let’s clarify.
Positive stress is when the HPA axis – Hypothalamic (located in the brain) – Pituitary (located in base of the brain) & Adrenal (located above the kidneys) – receives a stimulus or stressor and alerts the adrenal glands to secrete cortisol. This stress hormone counteracts a bodily imbalance and restores homeostasis. Once the stressor is no longer present, messages sent to the brain halt the release of cortisol. The body is back in balance.
Negative stress is when the body’s HPA-axis cannot overcome the stressor, becoming overtaxed and damaged as it struggles to correct the imbalance. We can witness this in action when a compromised immune system due to prolonged period of negative stress results in illness & infection.
There are many forms of stress that can silently or obviously debit the body’s health account.
- Thermal stress (changes to temperature)
- Physical (injury)
- Chemical (pollutants or additives)
- Electromagnetic (mobile phone usage)
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Microbial (infections, colds etc)
- Emotional or psychological (perhaps the most common cause of stress) are as potent as the physical. Unhappiness due to circumstance, job, relationships, financial situation, unresolved past issues, fear and anxiety about the future, unfulfilled dreams, living at a fast pace, rushing, juggling responsibilities and high self expectations are no different to the body than a negative physical event.
This is my perfect health checklist that will help you rebalance and protect you from prolonged stress:
- Thoughts – Choose positive thoughts and happiness. Debunk health myths. Take time to educate yourself on how to best create exuberant health!
- Presence – Implement mindfulness, make time for creative, fun projects and meditate. This brings your body into presence and allows for healing and repair.
- Breathing – Practice diaphragmatic, nasal breathing and resolve factors that affect breathing such as sinus/sleep apnea/snoring). Breathe clean, pollutant free air and walk amongst trees. They breathe out the oxygen we breathe in and we breathe out the carbon dioxide they breathe in.
- Hydration – With quality filtered water, herbal teas and reduce dehydrating fluids such as caffeinated drinks and alcohol.
- Nutrition – Eat an Omnivore’s Diet (both plant & animal). Consider the source and processing of food and fluids you consume. Create a healthy digestive system in order to digest and absorb nutrients and eliminate well
- Movement – Exercise regularly and work on a healthy posture.
- Sleep/Wake – Wake with the sun, wind down with the sun and sleep by 10pm.
- Sunlight – Take time out to enjoy 10 minutes of sunlight for vitamin D and enjoy it’s other health benefits such as antibacterial effects and the production of happy hormones.
- Environment – Keep an organised and de-cluttered environment. This encourages flow and ease. Frequently remove dust and reduce or eliminate chemical pollutants found in cleaning and beauty products by choosing biodegradable, natural products.
- Daily Rhythm – Spend time looking at your 24 hour day and envision what you would like to create for yourself. When keeping a daily rhythm, life is easier and lived more mindfully. This will help you design your life rather than live life by default or in a reactive, stressful state. This allows you to regroup and raise awareness on how you live your life and take care of your health. With mind and body awareness we can address imbalances as they come up and make adjustments to our lifestyle.