Stress can be an integral part of our daily lives and it is often unavoidable. Stress is typically looked upon as having a negative impact; however, stress can have a positive or even neutral influence. Without stress, individuals would not be motivated to do anything. Stress becomes negative when our bodies are unable to appropriately respond to it.
So what is stress and how does it affect us?
Stress is a physiological response of our body to any type of demand (either physical, emotional and/or mental) from the inside or outside world. How a person may react to stress not only affects the individual, but also their environment. Stress is related to both external and internal factors. Some examples of external factors include: your occupation, relationships with others, physical environment and the everyday circumstances we must deal with. Your body’s ability to handle and respond to stress encompasses the internal factors. Emotional and mental well-being, rest, sleep, nutritional status, overall health and exercise are all examples of internal factors.
The adrenal glands are responsible for coping with stress. They are small glands that sit on top of the kidneys. Adrenal glands produce different hormones and during stress they mainly produce cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. The hormones are then released into the blood stream and prepare the body for the challenges it faces by increasing blood pressure, heart rate, and by making more energy available for fuel.
Our adrenal glands eventually get exhausted by constantly being utilized to cope with stress; causing low energy, sleep disturbances, impaired memory, weakened immune system and decreased ability to deal with stress. In addition, stress affects many areas of the body including, but not limited to, digestion, brain and nerves, heart, muscles and joints, and the reproductive system. Consequently, conditions such as allergies, weight gain, insulin resistance, muscle aches and pains, symptoms of poor thyroid function or hyperthyroidism, low sex drive, loss of scalp hair and high blood pressure may develop or be exacerbated.
Here are some strategies to help cope with and manage stress.
- Build a routine: Aim to eat, sleep, exercise and work at regular times. This will help your body get into a rhythm and support the adrenal glands.
- Aim for 8 hours of sleep: To properly rest the adrenal glands at least 8 hours of sleep is needed.
- Consume a well-balanced diet: Increase water intake and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds. Reduce the consumption of simple carbohydrates, processed and refined foods.
- Aim to exercise 30-40 minutes three to four times a week. . Not only does exercise increases energy levels and endurance, but it also increases nutrient transport to all tissues.
- Most important: Do something you enjoy every day.
Naturopathic Doctors can work with you to help increase your stress resilience through nutrition, relaxation techniques, adrenal support formulas, and lifestyle management.
Dr. Jessica Grewal, Naturopathic Doctor