How To Manage Stress Levels
If you are wondering how to manage your stress levels, lets first discuss what stress is and its effect on the body. Then we can take a look at some healthy habits that can change the way you, and your body react to stress.
Humans have always faced dangers. In response to all sorts of troubles our bodies have developed a marvellous response system.
Long ago, a person out gathering food, might have found themselves suddenly confronted by a bear, a cougar, or a lion. The fear that person experienced in response to that sudden stress would cause their body to go into what we call, “Fight or Flight Mode.” In this mode the brain sends messages to the adrenal glands to produce certain hormones, especially cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones, often referred to as stress hormones, are brilliantly helpful when we need to run from a lion or fight off a predator.
Stress hormones cause glucose to be released into the blood stream to give us energy, they increase the heart rate to keep this glucose circulating quickly, and they cut off blood supply to less urgently needed systems in order to focus on strength and speed. It is a fantastic system for helping humans survive dangerous moments.
Unfortunately, this system is less helpful in the face of chronic stress. In our modern age we are less likely to be confronted by a threatening animal or to be forced to run for our lives, but are more likely to be burdened by the daily demands of life. Worries, responsibilities, and a fast-paced lifestyle can cause us to feel the same fear and anxiety as our ancestors, but without the benefit of leaving the predator behind. The daily stress we experience wreaks havoc on our bodies and could be one of the most harmful threats to our health in this day and age.
3 Ways Stress is Harming You
Messes with your blood sugar — As we mentioned, stress hormones increase the flow of glucose to your blood, giving you the energy and strength you need to fight or flee from a threat. Daily feelings of stress keep your glucose level elevated, which in turn elevate your insulin levels which can make your body resistant to insulin over time. This can lead to diabetes, adrenal fatigue, and weight gain as stress hormones send signals to deposit fat in the abdominal region.
Hinders your digestion — Stress hormones cut off blood supply to the systems performing “less urgent” tasks, including digestion. If you need to run from a lion, you are less concerned about how efficiently your body is digesting your breakfast. But if you are facing chronic, daily stress, and your body is never properly digesting breakfast, or any meal for that matter, you will face long-term problems. Poor digestion can lead to a long list of diseases including leaky-gut syndrome, allergies, and inflammation.
Suppresses your immunity — Along with your digestive system, stress hormones also cut off blood supply to your immune system. Again, if you need to run from a lion, you are less concerned about fighting off that nagging cold you’ve felt coming on. But again, chronic, daily stress will leave your immune system behind in manufacturing white blood cells and antibodies. This will leave you more vulnerable to infections and illnesses.
The most important thing to understand when considering stress and our health is that stress is not actually about our circumstances, but is more about our reaction to daily life. In order to feel stress, we must believe something to be a threat. Two people faced with the same circumstance can respond very differently mentally, which leads to a very different biological outcome. One of the best things you can do for your health is learn to adapt your attitude and your response to the daily stuff of life. Remind yourself that you are not actually being hunted by a lion! The traffic you are stuck in, the long line at the grocery store, the rude comment from a colleague, and the argument you had with your best friend; none of these pose an immediate threat to your life. Pause throughout your day, consider your mindset, and take some of the following practical steps to reduce stress in your life.
Take a deep breath — Simply slowing our heart rate, sending fresh oxygen to our cells, and allowing ourselves a moment to remember that we are not about to die can stop our body’s stress response and save us a world of physical trouble.
Exercise — When we already feel stressed, moving our bodies can help use up the excess glucose our body has released and relieve the load on our pancreas to send out insulin.
Supplement — B vitamins support the immune system, omega 3’s can reduce cortisol levels, magnesium can help ease tension and improve sleep, and herbs such as ashwanganda and rhodiola help support the adrenal glands.
Meditate — Study after study shows that regular meditation reduces the effects of stress and helps us build better habits in responding to our daily life.
With these lifestyle tips in mind, we can also support our stress levels with some help from supplements. Check out our next article on Ashwagandha, an adaptogenic herb that can support your body during stressful periods. https://www.herbesthealth.com/blogs/news/what-is-ashwagandha-good-for