Stress comes in three stages — and we all feel it at some point. Women’s wellness expert Tracy Savill explains how stress travels through your body, and what you can do to really get rid of it!
Stress. This word is bandied about A LOT…Often used at the drop of anything that resembles a busy and hectic calendar, workload, and the life of mums juggling kids, home, work and everything else in between!
So what is stress, really?
In the wellness realm, stress can essentially come from three factors: Chemical, Physical and Emotional/ Mental.
Ok, so let’s start with the obvious – physical stress. This could include an injury, infection or illness — all cause a degree of stress within the body. Just think of when you are feeling unwell; this has a definite impact on your physical body, which then produces a whole load of inflammation within the body as the immune system tries to fight back and support your body back to wellness.
Next we have chemical stress. This can be derived from the range of different things we consume (processed foods, artificial colours, flavours and preservatives to name a few!), to what we absorb in our bodies from the environment and through our skin (skincare, makeup, deodorants, etc.), to medications and any synthetic substances that we are exposed to.
Pretty scary isn’t it? How does this stress our body? Well essentially, all of these put a load on our liver as it is its job to find a way to detoxify and eventually eliminate it! If we have too many of these substances inside our bodies, it causes a huge amount of stress, which results in a chain reaction of biochemical processes within our bodies. These are often negative processes that drive further inflammation throughout the body.
Read more: What are the Body’s Channels of Elimination?
Finally we have mental and emotional stress. This is what most people feel when they say “I’m so stressed!” – it’s a feeling that they have so much going on inside their heads to try and get ‘everything’ done, organised, completed – and all within the limited hours we have in each day! More often than not, however, some of this stress can be what we perceive, rather than what is actually real or true…. Our perception of pressure and urgency is a huge driver in the production of stress inside our bodies.
Often if we are able to just change the way we look at something, this changes how we think, and ultimately impacts on how we then approach each day, or each ‘perceived stressful’ situation. We have the power to choose this, and in so doing we can change the amount of stress that our bodies actually produce.
Let me explain how this all works inside our bodies …
When our bodies go through any one of these stresses – physical, emotional/ mental and chemical – the body will release stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. In the initial stages of stress the adrenal glands will release adrenaline, as this is the well known ‘fight or flight’ hormone. This hormone is designed to help the body “get out of danger”, so when it is released it has biochemical reactions that take place in the body from blood pressure increase, to blood getting diverted from good digestive function towards the arms and legs (this is to help us ‘run away’ from what the body thinks is danger).
Usually once we have ‘run away from the danger’, the stress should essentially be over and the body will not require adrenaline to be made any longer. The problem, however, is that for many people because of the amount of ‘perceived’ stress, chemical and physical stress loads that we consistently put on ourselves and bodies, we are constantly signalling to our bodies to release adrenaline. Over time when this happens, this causes a lot of inflammation, which then signals the adrenals to release the next stress hormone called cortisol, as cortisol has an anti-inflammatory effect. However long term cortisol release places a huge load on the adrenal glands, and over time the adrenals can become ‘fatigued’. This has a massive impact on one’s energy levels, weight management, sleep quality, thyroid function and memory and brain function.
So… what can we do?
Ok, one of the ways we can help to reduce the amount of stress hormones that our bodies release is by eliminating caffeine. I know right? WHAT!!!???
Well, when we consume coffee, the caffeine in the coffee attaches to our adenosine receptors in our brains, and this binding sends an automatic signal to our adrenal glands to release adrenaline! Yep, it’s true… just by drinking coffee we are communicating to our body that it is under threat and stress and so it sends its stress hormone fleet to help us get out of this ‘danger’. And we may just be sitting down at our desk at work. If we are then also having a day at work where we are highly ‘stressed’ from the workload or deadlines to meet, even more adrenaline and cortisol will be signalled to be released..
And for so many of us, this is a daily occurrence.
Here’s my recommendation:
Try to eliminate or at least reduce your caffeine intake, and also reassess your perception of pressure and urgency. Look at what is truly urgent and important that needs to get done –everything else can then wait.
Last but not least, incorporate some kind of daily deep diaphragmatic breathing practice, as this will ‘unconsciously’ communicate to your nervous system that you are safe and NOT in danger, so the body then doesn’t need to release its stress hormones!
Basically, learn to relax and chill out when you feel that surge of stress and pressure.
Lead image and image #2 sourced via Getty