Stress Management in Our Modern World
Ask any doctor, yoga teacher, natural health practioner… what their patients’ biggest complaints are and we guarantee the answer is stress-related. Yes, guarantee. Sure our modern world is full of amazing technology that make our lives easier, wonderful vacation destinations that make our lives more relaxing and medications a plenty to make all of our boo-boos go away like that. But the more that our contemporary world has to offer, the more responsibility we assume. We have to learn to use that new microwave, take 2 hours of our precious time at the travel agents to book that flight, and work 40 hours a week to have benefits that cover those pricey meds.
Types of Stress, a Caveman & the Stress Response
There are two different types of stress, the first being acute stress or short-term, the less severe of the pair. Acute stress is that rush we feel in a sticky situation – that deadline in an hour, that fender-bender last week. This type of stress quickly fades once the threat is gone. The second type, chronic stress or long-term, is more brutal than the latter. In today’s 24/7 world, many people stay with their chronic stress symptoms for months or even years. This type of on going stress is one of the most common causes of mental illness and disease today.
In another perspective, stress can be a good reaction as well, as it protects us from harm. Just imagine a strong, tall, and unruly caveman running for his life, a vicious wild beast hot on his trail. Although, as soon as he saw the viciousness on his opposite, this particular caveman’s body went through a rapid series of hormonal responses that ran through his brain, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands so that he could, well, run for the hills! Let’s take a look at the process. First, his brain secreted a hormone messenger to the pituitary (also located in the brain) which sent another messenger to his adrenals to release cortisol. The release quickly shifted the blood, oxygen and energy flow away from the digestive and reproductive systems to the muscles and heart. Thus his quick get away. Phew!
How Stress Affects Us
The problem is we are no longer cavemen running for our lives. In fact, we are far from it. So far in fact, the stress response is working against us.
Our bodies go through the same process as his, only many of us are so consistently overwhelmed that we don’t shut it off the way he did once safely at home. This chronic stress means that our body is always in “fight or flight” mode, never fully resting; be it days, months or years. And the problem with never shutting off is that long-term stress affects the body in ways we could have never imagined.
Here are a few of a lengthy list:
- Dysfunctional blood sugar metabolism, often leading to diabetes
- Cellular aging leading to older appearance and shorter life span
- Literally, restructuring a brain, increasing the risk of anxiety, depression and/or other mental disorders
- Heart problems, oftentimes deadly such as heartattacks
- A conflicted immune system often resulting in auto-immune diseases wherein the body attacks its own cells
Common Auto-Immune Disorders Caused or Heightened By Stress:
- Hyper or Hypthyrodism
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Once this stress response has been turned on for a significant period of time, the adrenal glands become wiped out. This happens over the period of time, in what some in the medical field describe as the three steps to adrenal exhaustion. At first, the adrenals are turned on like there is a ten-alarm fire in the body. Hormones, like cortisol, are pumped in to combat the flames. But when the stressors don’t go away, the second phase, or resistance response comes into play. The adrenals simply can’t maintain the demand for cortisol. Thus, daily functions are carried out but with a struggle. Anxiety and insomnia begin are more present as is irritability. In the third stage, the adrenals become exhausted. Fatigue sets in and different systems in the body begin malfunctioning. If stressors are not minimized, the adrenals will fail. Most patients at this point collapse or die of cardiovascular dysfunction.
3 Steps to Fight the 3 Phases
If you find that you are lacking in stress management skills or think you may be falling into a pattern leading to adrenal exhaustion, all’s not lost. Fight back with three easy lifestyle fixes: Nutrition, relaxation, and therapeutic techniques.
There is a lot to be said about the healing power in the right foods. Those that are stressed often reach for the easiest foods which are nearly always laden with sugar, fats, and caffeine. To get balance back, skip the coffee and sweets in favor of a diet that combines whole grains, proteins, and heart healthy fats (ie: olive oil). Eat three portioned meals and two snacks daily to keep blood sugar intact. Adding mineral-rich Celtic salt or sea salt is also beneficial, especially in causes of adrenal exhaustion.
Supplements can also help the body properly handle stress. This include but are not limited to:
- 2,000 – 4,000 mg of Vitamin C
- 800 IU of Vitamin E
- Zinc and other trace minerals
If you plan on taking any of these supplements, please consult a doctor first as some may have averse side effects.
A change of pace is what most of us need. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean the need to pick up the pace but rather to change the pace. Therefore, if you find yourself running around like a nut all day everyday, by night, a soothing yoga and meditation practice is right up your alley. But if you find yourself deskbound, your change of pace should be something more lively; a ½ hour walk on your lunch break or a cycling class after work. This yin-yang approach to daily life helps our bodies stay in tune to being both sedentary and active. In essence, it keeps us balanced.
Whether it is reading self-help books or going to see a counselor in the flesh, 99% of the population can benefit from therapy of some sort. Learning to see reality for what it is and most importantly, what it is not, is the first step toward mental stability. (Hey, most of our lives really aren’t all bad.) Once we have a handle on our emotions, we are better equipped to handle anything that life might throw our way.
Although stress is one of the biggest health issues of our time, it is one of the easiest fixes – no meds required. Taking the time to learn what causes your unique stress story and finding your own coping techniques are the first steps in a road to regain balanced well-being and freedom of life back.
http://www.project-aware.org/Resource/articlearchives/adrenalfatigue.shtml http://www.womentowomen.com/adrenalfatigue/adrenalglandnutrition.aspx http://www.drlam.com/articles/adrenalexhaustion.asp
Kassie Kuehl is a respected leader and educator in natural health and beauty care. The founder of Kasia Organic Salon and many result orientated "beautiful health" products, and experts in ammonia free hair color. Kasia remains on the cutting edge of all-natural, non-toxic, and organic professional hair, skin, and body products and services. To become an Informed Beauty, contact Kassie at 612.386.4044, or visit www.kasiaorganicsalon.com.