Staving Off Stress

stressrelief

 

Stress is defined as being “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.” But, when we think about it honestly, we all –even children, and especially teens– have stress. What we may not think about is the impact that stress actually has on our body, and how that results in weight gain and a less than optimally functioning immune system.

The American Institute of Stress identifies 50 different symptoms of stress ranging from simple things like headache to more concerning things like fatigue or tiredness, all the way to really scary stuff like panic attacks. The truth is that stress effects systems, organs and tissues all over our body: our nervous system, musculoskeletal system, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, endocrine system, gastronitestinal system and even our reproductive system all take a hit when we are doing a stress routine in our lives. Wow! It’s a bigger deal than you thought, isn’t it?

Let’s start with a simple exercise. Put your hand on your chest–right where you have that kind of enlarged area on the breast bone–right on your chest. Underneath there is your thymus. The thymus will actually shrink from stress. Now this is important, because the thymus actually dictates the quality of our immune function. So, when it shrinks from stress, the immune system is weakened, so, it’s important that we get a handle on–and reduce–the excess stress in our lives.

Stress And You

Stress and nutritional choices, play a major role in adrenal fatigue. The connection between the adrenals and the thyroid is a big deal. If our adrenals are tired, the thyroid makes an executive decision to change some things about what it’s doing. The adrenals are two little glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They are about the size of walnuts, and they are what enable us to handle stress, among other things. Fatigued adrenals will slow down the thyroid. I’m going to keep this really simple and just point out that when the thyroid slows down (doctors will call that “hypothyroidism”) basically it stops converting T4 to T3. T3 is the metabolically active thyroid hormone, so that’s why people who are hypothyroid also have a much slower metabolism, and usually weight gain is a key symptom that they’re experiencing. Now you understand why.

Stress also causes loss of concentration. Do you know why they put Exit signs above every exterior door in public buildings? Because when stress happens–when a crisis happens–people just can’t think. Why? Because they don’t have enough glucose in their brain. That’s why we hear about people passing out from stress: because the glucose hasn’t gotten to the brain yet. You know, we’re constantly on overload. We can’t concentrate on anything because we’ve got everything going on. Does that make sense?

The “stress life” is really pretty easy to describe. Tell me if this sounds familiar: You’re working on very little sleep, thinking about your job, bills, family, health, fears, anxieties, friends, heartaches, worries, dreads, children, relationships…it just goes on and on and it snowballs, doesn’t it? Then we go and add medications into that mix to try to cope with the symptoms (and meds are stressors in and of themselves, you know). Except that the meds basically just mask the symptoms, by keeping us from noticing them as much, but unfortunately, those same meds that are fixing one set of symptoms seem to always bring along their own side effects, don’t they? And, really, they never fix what caused the first symptoms in the first place.

Stress and anxiety are debilitating conditions. They upset the balance of hormones, leading to a loss of well being, productivity and even lifespan. Stress can even cause depression. In 1998, pharmaceutical sales of anti-anxiety drugs totalled 700 million dollars, while sales of antidepressants were close to 5 billion. That was 1998. Today, those numbers really are unbelievable! Almost everybody we talk to is on some form of antidepressant as they try to deal with the massive stress in their lives. But, I’m here today to tell you that there’s a better way.

People under stress can reduce many of the harmful effects of stress with natural supplements without becoming sedated in the process. Unlike traditional prescription drugs, certain natural supplements don’t make us drowsy or walking zombies, instead they help us become more alert and focused because of the way it works in our brain. It does that by working on the Theta waves. So, if take a supplement like those in our Anti-Stress Kit, we don’t become slow and lethargic, instead, we actually become more mentally alert in terms of our ability to focus and concentrate. These supplements also lend vital support to our adrenal glands. Unfortunately, in today’s world, there’s no one walking around without stress. We all need that extra support in one form or another, and really it’s ok to ask for help.

Stress And Weight Gain

So, we’ve talked about symptoms of stress, but let’s get a little more specific about how it impacts our weight…what really happens when we have stress? What’s the typical response? We eat for comfort, right? And, we never grab anything healthy do we? Nope. We go right for the Dunkin’ Donuts drive through, because we just can’t handle the stress…we gotta have something to make us “feel” better. We deserve it right now…we’ll get back to healthy when we feel better, right? That’s the rationale, anyway, of what happens in people’s head. I know people like this. YOU know people like this, right? You might even be like me and have been this person yourself. Or, maybe you still are.

Well, here’s the truth: we CAN control eating for comfort. We can go for something healthy. Have some raw veggies. Have a cup of MochaTonix (fat-burning, nutrient enhancing, energy boosting…this stuff is the bomb dot com!). Take an extra Bliss from the Anti-Stress Kit…all of those are great responses to stress. But, the cortisol, we CAN’T control. Our body is absolutely going to have a cortisol response to stress.

Now, cortisol is a vital adrenal gland hormone. We need it involved in carbohydrate and protein metabolism, and to control the immune system. It dampens the adrenaline response so that our heart doesn’t race so fast that we go into cardiac arrest. So, cortisol is made when we are hungry or when we are stressed. So, if we eat stress producing foods–high glycemic foods–we will produce cortisol. Too much exercise will produce cortisol. Skipping meals, medications, etc. all of that causes a cortisol response. Cortisol increases blood glucose levels, and chronic excess of cortisol production or intake of predinosone or cortisone pills or injections can even lead to a type of adrenal diabetes. When people are adrenal fatigued, they tend to have diabetic or pre-diabetic symptoms. Those two things usually go hand in hand. That’s why my lifestyle weight management clients see such fantastic results: our program components are so powerful in addressing not only fat loss, but this underlying issue of adrenal fatigue (and, yes, that is a real thing).

Cortisol causes increased breakdown of protein in the muscles and slows the building of new muscle. Healthy cortisol levels cause fatty tissue to be broken down and transported into the blood helping the body to burn fat instead of sugar. So let me say that again: Correct healthy cortisol levels–balanced–by eating the right things at the right times helps us to burn fat. Like we discussed in my last post, we also have to be careful about the intensity of our exercise, because even though exercise is good, too much will also cause us to have an out of balance cortisol response. It’s important to exercise at the heart rate that will keep us in fat burning zone so that we can burn fat instead of sugar or tearing down the muscle that we’re trying to build.

So, let’s bring this full circle, that excessive cortisol production can suppress the function of our immune system by shrinking the thymus. And, it will also shrink lymph tissue and decrease the formation of antibodies which would actually fight the invader and synthesize lymphocytes all of which are necessary to fight disease. So, can you see how we set ourselves up to get sick following those periods when we are overstressed? We push through to get things done and then the next thing you know, we’ve come down with a cold or bronchitis or laryngitis or some other respiratory issue. It’s not coincidence…it’s science. Our body deserves better!

Stress And Your Hormones

Well, stress creates that cortisol response, and when that happens, the body doesn’t follow the proper hormone pathway. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here, but let’s just say that there are some fairly complex conversions and processes that research has shown us get interrupted when chronic stress comes into play.

Whenever we are doing a stress routine in our life and in our body, there’s going to be an impact on the adrenal glands. They make 50 thats–FIFTY–different types of hormones in 3 major types of classes. The way they handle not only making these hormones, but also how they handle glucose and minerals plays a major role in the way our body performs. When the body makes cortisol instead, we stop handling glucose effectively. We stop assimilating and utilizing minerals, and we become minerally deficient–generally it’s in magnesium and potassium. So, if we don’t handle glucose well, what happens to it? We store it as fat. So, reduce the stress. Pronto.

Ok. Reduce the stress. But how?

Many of us use a host of negative behaviors in an effort to cope with the stress in our lives. Take a good honest look at yourself and think about whether or not you’ve engaged in any of these behaviors within the past 30 days:

  • drinking too much alcohol (if you feel like you have to have even just one drink a day, you’re drinking too much)
  • pigging-out on comfort food
  • taking pills or other recreational drugs to “relax”
  • zoning out for hours in front of the TV or computer

Unfortunately, these behaviors each just create even more stress on our body, so I’d like to spend the remainder of this blog post sharing some behaviors that will help us cope with the stress of life in a way that actually lessens its impact:

Exercise

Even a quick walk up and down the stairs will release endorphins…those are our “feel good hormones.” Have you seen the shirts that say things like “I run to keep the crazies away.” It’s true.

Avoid eating high glycemic foods

We’ve already talked about how cortisol interferes with our ability to handle glucose well, so if the stress is already there, don’t make things worse by eating foods that aren’t designed to bring you health.

Controlled Breathing

The simplest exercise is to close your eyes and breathe in through your nose…really deep…as deep as you can get, then out through your mouth. Do that three or four times several times a day. It only takes a few seconds, but can make a big difference. I learned just last night about a technique called 4-7-8 Breathing that’staught by Dr. Andrew Weil. This technique is helpful for not only stress reduction, but a whole host of other issues, as well. I encourage you to check it out and begin practicing. I know I’m going to be adding it to my anti-stress routine, for sure!

Physically get out into nature

As Americans, we spend so much time cooped up inside, most of us trapped behind a desk staring at a computer screen for hours on end. Get into the fresh air. And, if you can, take your shoes off and just get your bare feet right on the grass. There’s just something about it that’s life-giving.

Listen to music

Personally, I’ve found that it’s almost impossible to feel depressed while singing, so, when you start to feel overwhelmed, and heading for those dark places, turn on some music and sing…dance around even. You’ve heard the saying, “Dance like no one is watching”…do it. Really, everyone else is too worried about what others are thinking about them to even notice half of what’s going on around them. They really aren’t watching us, and if they are…who cares?!

Power nap

This one doesn’t work for everyone, but those of you who can: DO IT!

Laugh

A lot. Like a lot, a lot. Watch those funny shows, read the silly children’s books with your kiddos, and don’t be afraid to admit that you cracked up at the latest goofy cat video on YouTube. It’s not just ok…it’s actually good for you.

Look for positive people

Did you know that we will emulate the behaviors of the five people we spend the most time with? So, look for people who can truly lift you up. Avoid people who “do” overwhelmed…you know who they are…everything is a crisis. Trust me, it’s a habit! Stay away. Happiness is a habit, too! Find a reason…it takes practice. Your brain believes what you tell it, so be positive.

Take QUALITY supplements

Most of the time, we get what you pay for. Buying something cheap off the shelf is most often not going to be very helpful to anyone except the company that manufactures it. I’m happy to make recommendations of patented pharmacy-grade nutriceuticals for you. Just contact me to schedule a phone call.

Sleep

This is a biggie. When we don’t sleep, our HGH will be diminished, we age in overdrive, we have carb cravings and gain weight. Period. 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night is the minimum. The first 4 hours that we’re asleep is just for adrenal repair…they have to rest and repair from all the work we made them do during the day. The remainder of our sleep is for actual “rest.” If the adrenals don’t get that repair and rest, they get more and more fatigued until the point where they become exhausted. When those adrenals give out and stop making cortisol (remember, we HAVE to have it!), we are ready to be six feet under. That may be a reality check for some of you. It certainly was for me a few years ago. You simply cannot keep living like that and expect to somehow be healthy.

I hope this post has given you a new perspective on stress, and that you’ve taken away a few ideas for how to better do battle with it. Make the choice to put your health first. You really are worth it!

~Coach Teresa

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Tom Gibson