We are living in a time where the word ‘stress’ is a given. It is almost expected that we should be ‘stressed’ about someone or something. The fact is that stress is real and there are varying degrees of stress in our lives and it will impact upon us differently as individuals and has the ability to affect our health and wellbeing also.
Our bodies are amazing machines. We have all these wonderful inbuilt mechanisms that try and keep all in order when ‘life stuff’ and stress throws us off balance. When life gets hectic and we feel the pressures, we can suffer all kinds of issues; particularly health issues. Two hormones affected by stress are produced in your adrenal glands. These hormones are Cortisol and Adrenalin.
Adrenaline is a short fast acting hormone which is secreted in response to exercise, emergency, embarrassment and excitement. Glycogen in your liver is converted into glucose to be used for quick energy. Adrenaline is known as the ‘fight or flight’ hormone. Cortisol is produced as a result of more chronic stress and the main function of Cortisol is to convert fats and protein into glucose to provide energy for the ‘fight or flight’ response. Any excess sugar (glucose) is then stored for fat production. Considering many people have copious amounts of stress in their lives, it is little wonder that weight gain is a side effect. There is a lot of research and evidence that Cortisol and Insulin (secreted from our pancreas) both contribute to fat accumulation through ‘peaks and troughs’ in our blood sugar levels which in turn leads to cravings and over eating sugar and carbohydrates in general – a vicious cycle.
Sufficient rest and sleep are huge factors in controlling cortisol levels. In fact, rest is as important as exercise itself. Many people are on a merry go round of constant stress, long hours, exercise and lack of sleep which in turn creates a higher level of cortisol which then creates an imbalance in our hormones and blood sugar levels and is a sure fire method of storing body fat and draining our immune systems and leading to symptoms such as chronic fatigue, infections and an unhealthy body.
Not all stress is bad however. We also have ‘good stress’ which brings out the best in us. It stimulates us to perform at a higher level. We need some challenge in our lives which in turn can keep us feeling exhilarated and enthused.
Getting a ‘balance’ is key here. Balance is a bit of a magic word! However it is achievable with some simple steps. Get enough sleep for a start. Build rest days into your exercise routine. Have regular massage. Choose to eat a healthy unprocessed diet containing lots of fresh vegetables, fruit, protein and essential fatty acids. Learn to meditate. Have alcohol free days in your week. Get a pet. Engage in stimulating activities that challenge your brain without deadlines and taking on too much. Last but not least…laughter is often the best medicine!