Leading Cause of Disease
Summer makes most of my clients grateful for our pleasant, Mediterranean climate. So far, our little corner of the world is a secret and we don’t have to deal with many tourists as we make our seasonal plans. But our tendency to over-schedule ourselves means even our picturesque summer is lost to stress overload. But stress doesn’t just steal joyful moments. It also robs us of good health.
Different Stressors, Same Result
The source of our stress is as vast as the ocean. And while much of our anxiety is mental, the stress we endure comes in many forms. Our daily exercise, our nutritional choices, even air conditioning and smog from rush-hour traffic all contribute to the stress response that happens on a cellular level. No matter the origin of the stress, it penetrates our bodies the way drops of rain infiltrate the ocean. The many causes of stress form a single result.
Many people who train for a marathon experience the consolidated effect of stress. As training intensifies, the body responds by releasing cortisol. The hormone diverts blood to the limbs and brain. The increased blood flow helps us run faster and also contributes to “runner’s high,” that sweet feeling that makes us love the sport. Evolution made cortisol for running, when doing so often saved our ancestors’ lives.
But evolution didn’t plan on project deadlines, shrinking bank accounts or a child’s soccer game starting in 30 minutes at a field almost an hour’s drive away.
For these modern problems, our body’s only solution is cortisol and other stress hormones. Because, who knows, maybe diverted blood flow will help us honk the horn harder or think of a new mathematical discipline that will solve our cash flow mess.
The marathon hopeful will push through his training schedule without realizing that work and family pressures will affect his outcome.
Consequences of Chronic Stress
Long-term stress spells disaster for our goals as well as our health. In the 1950s, Dr. Hans Seyle identified three phases of chronic stress.
The first stage is the “fight or flight” stage, during which the body prepares to either run or kill a saber-toothed tiger. It does so by diverting resources away from digestion, immunity and other processes.
The second stage of chronic stress is adaption. From an evolutionary point of view, this stage may help us adapt to harsh climates or famines. In today’s world, this stage is characterized by chocolate cravings to replace diminished magnesium or belly fat that quarantines destructive stress hormones.
Stage three is exhaustion. In this stage, the adrenal glands cannot produce cortisol and adrenaline effectively. People suffering from exhaustion experience alternating periods of energy and fatigue as well as other symptoms. They often have trouble getting out of bed and become sleepy again mid-afternoon. But the sleepiness doesn’t last long because middle-of-the-night cortisol spikes cause wakefulness around 2 or 3 a.m.
Most of our clients come to us in this third stage. They are often weak, depressed and anxious. They also struggle with joint pain, allergies and weight gain.
In a way, people who experience adrenal fatigue are lucky. They experience the disastrous effects of stress in a relatively short time frame. Exhaustion is impossible to ignore and a healthy lifestyle is the only way to break free of it.
Others spend a lifetime overworked and go on to develop serious complications, such as heart disease, hypertension and even cancer.
These diseases develop because stress isn’t just a sensation; it’s a real hormonal reaction that damages our cellular health. Stress leads to premature aging and an early death.
Cornerstone of Good Health
Managing your stress is just as important to your health as eating well and exercising. But when you can’t clear traffic or ease your boss’s demands, how can you ease your stress?
The hormonal reality of stress means managing stress is easier than you may think. Instead of changing your outside reality, you only need to improve your internal experience. When you do, your outside reality will be better too.
For example, eating organic produce provides nutrients to counter the damage caused by stress while reducing your toxic load. Deep belly breathing halts cortisol production. Getting enough sleep, even if it means taking naps, helps repair your body and mind. Nurturing your relationships and practicing spirituality are proven ways to lower your stress hormones. All of these make you better able to solve problems.
Our modern world is overrun with stressors. Environmental pollution, noise and deadlines are part of our reality. But the poor health that can result doesn’t have to be. You can choose to live joyfully, mindfully and healthy.
Making the choice is the first step. The health coaches at Mind Body Motion can help you start the journey. If stress is robbing you of joy and good health, call us today. With a free consultation, we’ll develop a plan to help you be healthier and live purposefully.
“Keep On Moving!”
Luis Ponce, Sr.
( 408) 778-5577