How is stress affecting you?

We can’t deny that stress is everywhere! Missing a train, being stuck in traffic, dealing with an angry customer, your dog peeing on your favourite rug.. The list is endless!

With stress being a big part of our modern world, there is not much we can do to escape it. Now I don’t say that to get you down, I say that to empower you! Because the key is not focusing on getting rid of stress from your life (minimise yes!) but to focus on how you are managing your stresses.

It is normal to experience the occasional stress or worry, in fact, sometimes it can be a good thing to get you out of procrastination.

Now why is it so important to not only manage your stress but to also minimise it? Let’s look at the different ways stress can affect your body.

When you stress the body you end up secreting one of two, or both hormones namely, cortisol and adrenaline. 

Cortisol prevents your body from using fat as a defence mechanism to keep stored energy, insulation and for the protection of the organs. 

Often client’s would say to me “Kiara, I am eating healthy and exercising, why can’t I lose weight? One word..stress! I look into people’s eyes and I can see a build up of emotional pressure.

The other hormone that is released when we are stressed is adrenaline, which stimulates every cell in your body to fire at an increased rate. 

As cells are more active, the amount of waste produced is increased and the accumulation has a toxic effect on your body. 

Ever heard the term “running on adrenaline?” During extenuating circumstances this may happen, it’s your body’s coping mechanism for dealing with what life has thrown at you. 

However, running on adrenaline in your everyday life is not a good thing! It means your body is constantly running on empty. 

Let’s take a step back in time to what it would have been like in our ancestral days; what were their biggest stresses? I am guessing it was being chased by a wild animal and nothing to do with running late for a meeting. So in the case of being chased by a wild animal our flight or fight kicks in and the adrenaline would be released for a reason – to help us run away. 

In our modern day society we are still having those same chemical reactions but due to us not having to run for our lives, those chemicals still remain in our body. 

Next time you are worked up over being stuck in traffic think about all of those chemicals roaming around in your body with no where to go, no wonder most of us are exhausted! When was the last time you filled your body up with energy (and I’m not talking about food!)?

Not only does being stressed play havoc on your hormones (in particular the fat storage hormones), it also affects your ability to digest food properly. Think about a baby, how often do they need their nappy changed? After every meal right? Well there is nothing different about us adults; we still need to eliminate after every meal otherwise, where is all of the undigested food going? 

One of the main factors that affects a healthy digestion is, yes you got it, stress. 

Let’s talk about what kind of state you are in when eating your meals. Are you grabbing breakfast on the go? Are you throwing down your lunch at your desk whilst checking emails? This will play a big role in your ability to digest your food and then of course your ability to eliminate it. 

Next time you eat a meal focus on chewing your food slowly (up to 20 times), that will help calm your nervous system down so you can  digest your food more effectively.

Apart from digestion, another thing that falls by the waist side when you are stressed is your sleep. Let me use the baby analogy again. How many hours do they sleep? Whilst babies need substantially more sleep than us adults we are not that different. Research suggests that while adults are getting less sleep that’s not actually what our bodies want. And what do you think the main factor in us getting less sleep, you guessed it, stress. 

The biggest contributor of a poor night’s sleep is indeed stress (unless you have a newborn baby of course).

I had experiences with this back in my Personal Training days when the alarm was set for 4 am. I would also struggle to sleep during the night because I was constantly worried about sleeping through my alarm. Good morning cortisol! I felt like this is what my body was saying to me when the alarm went off. Over 10 years in this routine my body started to reject this chemical influx. Every morning upon rising I could instantly feel my heart almost beating out of my chest and the anxious thoughts would begin circulating.

After I had some tests done I found out my cortisol levels were 8 times over what they should be. I needed to make some serious changes or I was on my way to chronic fatigue.

After that wake up call I knew I needed to manage my constant worry and stressed feelings that I would get (particularly at night). Beforehand I thought it was out of my control, I thought that’s just the way I was. I realised I needed to create habits in my life to control stress.

Steve Maraboli said it perfectly “I promise you nothing is as chaotic as it seems. Nothing is worth diminishing your health. Nothing is worth poisoning yourself into stress, anxiety and fear.”

What habits have you created in your life to manage your stress? If you need some help with this leave me a comment and we can come up with some ideas together.

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