WHAT IS STRESS?
Simply put, stress is a measurement of all life experiences–good and bad. You may not even know your body is stressed. Any change from a neutral position is considered stress by the body. Breathing poor quality air, eating hormonally charged foods, thinking about your finances, getting married, buying a new home–all of these are stressors.
SO HOW DOES THE BODY COUNTERACT STRESS?
Our bodies have handled stress in the same miraculous way for 50,000 years. At the sign of a dangerous situation (the approach of a mega-sized animal thousands of years ago or a semi truck headed in your direction today), your body immediately goes into survival mode–fight or flight. Your adrenal glands kick into high gear, emitting first adrenaline and then cortisol. As cortisol levels increase, immune activity decreases, and all non-vital functions–reproduction, tissue repair, digestion–shut down. This survival mechanism will save your life in dangerous situations. But when your body is in a constant state of stress, as so many of ours are, the same mechanism can be harmful, even deadly.
STRESS IN THE LONG RUN . . .
When you’re subjected to prolonged stress (real or imaginary), your adrenal glands get bigger and increase production of adrenaline and cortisol. All systems of the body shift into survival mode. There may be nothing threatening your survival, but your body doesn’t know it. It turns off the immune system, growth, repair and digestion.
If the stress continues, adrenal reserves become depleted and eventually exhausted. Adrenal exhaustion is characterized by the following symptoms:
breathless when climbing stairs
feeling tired all the time
increased urine flow
low back syndrome
rashes and acne
stiff neck and shoulders
You can survive without your reproductive organs, and even without full use of your digestive organs. You cannot, however, survive without your adrenal glands, so they are considered a high priority by the body’s survival brain. If your adrenals are exhausted, your reproductive hormones will be used to fuel them. (This is why it is so important to fix the adrenal glands before addressing other hormonal problems. Otherwise, you can provide supplemental progesterone and estrogen all day long for the reproductive hormones, and it won’t fix the problem.)
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?
Assessing Your Stress Levels
The most effective way to measure the long-term impact of stress on your body is to use a 24-hour hormonal test. I use a simple saliva test from Sabre Sciences, Inc. that tells your current status, plus an indication of any possible future problems.
Protecting Yourself from Negative Stress
Know Yourself! Learn to better identify how stress affects you. Notice the stressors in your life. Can you avoid them? If not, how can you deal with them? Also, determine where in your body you feel stress. The solar plexus? The neck? The back?
Breathe! Yoga can relax tight areas of the body and help improve breathing. Oxygen is a great healer for the adrenal glands. Check right now to see if you are holding your breath or if your chest feels tight and constricted. Long, deep breaths are vital for health.
Move! Long, sustained exercise with a slight heart-rate increase, such as cycling, walking, or swimming, is best for your adrenals. Avoid quick spurts of energy that get your heart rate too high.
Eat Right! Avoid sugar, alcohol and refined carbohydrates. Due to the glucose / insulin / cortisol interactions, sugars are a primary stressor of everyday life that contribute greatly to aging, weight, fatigue and adrenal exhaustion.
Get Adjustments! Chiropractic care, Applied Kinesiology, NAET, and massage are proven to improve adrenal function.
Stress is a factor of everyone’s life. Properly dealing with it will enhance and prolong your life. If there is one key to a long and healthy life, it is proper stress management!