Wake up to stress, reclaim your health!
For many years I believed that my stress was well controlled and I didn’t have any stress. Yet, I suffered from overwhelm, fatigue, time pressures, muscle tension/headaches, lack of clarity, memory troubles and frustration to name a few. Until I admitted I had stress, it continued to plague me, despite exercise, eating well and getting “enough” sleep.
In college I learned that there are 2 types of stress: good stress, known as eustress/positive and distress/negative stress. The main differentiating feature being how it impacts overall well-being in each individual. For example, getting a raise at work is considered an example of positive stressor, whereas student loan debt is considered a negative stressor. This is turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg.
There is a part of our brain called the limbic system, which is responsible for managing our emotional memories and thus sets the emotional tone for our social interactions.
The primary structures include: hippocampus, hypothalamus, thalamus, amygdala, cingulate gyrus, and basal ganglia. The amygdala is a small almond shaped component of this system which plays a role in our emotional memories including stimuli present at the time the memory occurred.
It is these stimuli that we experience a stress response to, and determines our perception of whether the stress is positive or negative.
The human body is an amazing phenomenon. In sudden stress, it releases hormones to prime our body for action. Once the episode passes, our bodies ideally return to a balanced state known as homeostasis. When we have chronic negative stressors, our bodies develop a maladaptive stress response to maintain homeostasis, in the body so it can continue to function in an optimal way. When we experience stress, the hypothalamus releases epinephrine and cortisol. Designed to prepare the body for fight or flight, these hormones are non-harmful in short bursts. However, when stress is chronic, there is a constant low-level secretion of cortisol. Over time, the impact from this maladaptive response can be devastating, creating inflammation in the body which results in our most common disease epidemics: cardiovascular disease (includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol), diabetes, hypothyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease to name a few.
We can reclaim our health in 3 simple steps.
1) Begin by becoming familiar with some common symptoms of stress:
- muscle tension
- constant worry/overwhelm
- time pressures
- impaired memory
- feelings of isolation
- change in appetite
- accident prone
- sugar cravings
- alcohol use to “relax”
2) Take notice of the situations/experiences in your daily life which create or aggravate these symptoms. Keep a journal handy and write it down.
3) Find calm by using simple techniques that effectively engage the parasympathetic nervous system response of rest and relaxation, decreasing the cortisol levels, and thus inflammation, in our bodies. Here are a few to get you started:
- Rub or gently pull on one ear;
- Briskly rub your hands together until they feel warm;
- Balance on one foot; for some this may mean just lifting your heel off the ground.
Would love to hear your thoughts! Send comments to: Kristen.NurturingVedicTouch@gmail.com