How stress affects your body and some at home tips on how to deal with it
Stress is like that toxic ex that just won't leave you alone. It creeps into your life and messes everything up. And let me tell you, it's not just your mental health that takes a hit, your body suffers too. So, let's break down how stress affects our bodies, shall we?
First things first, let's talk about what stress actually is. Stress is your body's natural response to a perceived threat. It's like when you see a spider and your heart starts racing, your palms get sweaty, and you feel like you're about to jump out of your skin. That's your body's fight-or-flight response kicking in. And while it can be helpful in certain situations, like running away from a tiger, it can wreak havoc on your body if you're constantly stressed out.
How does stress affect our gut health?
One of the ways stress affects our bodies is through our gut health. You see, our gut is like a second brain. It's filled with millions of neurons that communicate with our actual brain through the gut-brain axis. And when we're stressed, it can disrupt this communication and throw our gut out of whack.
Stress can cause a number of gut-related issues, from bloating and constipation to diarrhoea and even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For more information on how to identify if your have irritable bowel syndrome read our blog post here or click here for tips on how to help relieve IBS. It can also affect the balance of good and bad bacteria in our gut, which usually lead to inflammation and other health problems.
Does stress affect my pain and inflammation levels?
Now we all know what happens when inflammation increases in our body, right!?! Where there’s inflammation, there’s pain! Let’s talk pain. When you're stressed, your body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can cause inflammation and increase your sensitivity to pain. Stress is like a pain amplifier, cranking up the volume on any aches and pains you might have. It's like pouring petrol on a fire, girl. You know that headache you get after a long day of dealing with your boss's BS? Yeah, that's stress. And That nagging back pain that just won't go away? More than likely stress too. Don't even get me started on how being constantly exposed to these stress hormones can slow down injury and ailment recovery. Your body can't heal properly if it's constantly in fight-or-flight mode. It's like trying to fix a car while the engine is still running. Your body needs time to rest and recover, and stress can get in the way of that.
How does stress affect sleep?
Okay, so you’re not a mechanic, let's talk about something we all know about, sleep. Or when it comes to stress, perhaps I should say, lack thereof. Stress can turn your peaceful slumber into a nightmare, quite literally! When you're stressed, your mind is racing a mile a minute. It's like trying to fall asleep in the middle of a busy city street. You toss and turn all night, and wake up feeling worse than you did when you went to bed. Unfortunately, our body requires deep quality sleep to reduce the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in our system. Sleep is meant to be our reset button on these hormones, so that we can start the following day fresh and ready to take on the world. When the stress hormones are too high for too long, our ability to get quality sleep is severely affected and as a result this eliminates one of the best mechanisms the body has for reducing stress hormones. You can see how counterproductive this whole cycle is, right!?!?
Does stress affect my immune system as well?
Sorry to tell you that the detrimental effect of these stress hormones doesn’t end there. You better believe that stress can wreak havoc on your immune system as well. This constant onslaught of stress hormones makes your body way more susceptible to illness and infection. And let's be real, nobody has time for that. Stress hits the immune system from four directions. Firstly the direct influence cortisol and adrenaline has on the function of the immune system cells directly, secondly the adverse affect stress hormones have on the gut as mentioned above, which is where 70% of the immune cells reside, thirdly the impact lack of sleep has on the immune system and finally the immune system takes a hit when the body is in a chronic state of inflammation, which we have already seen is triggered by these stress hormones. It’s like a vicious cycle. Chronic stress, in particular, can have a long-term impact on your immune health, increasing your risk for everything from the common cold to more serious conditions like autoimmune diseases and cancer. An unfair attack in my opinion. With people experiencing higher levels of stress these days, it’s no wonder so many people are succumbing to illness, which then adds to their stress levels, and the cycle continues.
Why are my moods so affected by stress?
Now, last, but by no means the least, let's state the obvious. Stress can really mess with your moods. Stress can turn even the most chill person into a raving lunatic. One minute you're fine, the next minute you're crying over a commercial for dog food. It's like your emotions are on a rollercoaster, and you're just along for the ride. Unfortunately, when your mental health is affected, this whole cycle feels worse and becomes completely overwhelming. But don’t despair there is light at the end of the tunnel. This cycle simply needs a circuit breaker and we’re going to talk you through some natural, home help tips to break this stress cycle!
What can I do to break the Stress cycle?
So, what can you do to relieve stress and ease your pain? Exercise is a great place to start. Not only does it release endorphins (those feel-good hormones), but it can also help to reduce inflammation and improve your mood. And don't worry, you don't have to be a gym junkie like Em to reap the benefits. Even a short walk around the block can do wonders for your stress levels. Let’s dive a little deeper into the effect endorphins has on the stress hormones in your blood stream. Imagine a see-saw or set of scales, with stress hormones on one side and endorphins on the other. When your stress hormones are in plentiful supply, the scale are weighed down by stress, but when you start flooding the other side with endorphins the scales tip in our favour and the happy hormones has a stronger influence on our moods and all over physiological functioning. So the trick is, the more happy hormones we can flood our body with, the less influence the stress hormones have on our body.
What if I’m in too much pain to do exercise?
If your pain levels or injuries prevent you taking a stroll around the block, or from shaking your booty in the kitchen (thanks Tay Tay 🎶 ), consider releasing endorphins in another way. Here are five simple suggestions to help release endorphins and start tipping the scales in your favour:
Watch a funny movie or look back on some funny photo’s, or spend time applying some filters on SnapChat (that always gets Em and I laughing), it’s a brilliant way to release endorphins
2. Listening to music
Particularly music with a good beat. No sad love songs that remind you of your ex. The music needs to resonate at a high frequency to elevate your vibration.
3. Lying on the acupressure mat
Even for just 5 minutes at a time, can flood your body with an avalanche of endorphins. Let alone the affect it will have on increasing blood flow to help flush away the inflammation that those pesky stress hormones have caused.
I know, I know, it sounds a little woo-woo. But trust me, it works. Meditation can help calm your mind and reduce anxiety, and is another great way to bring down the stress hormones within your system. And the best part? You can do it anywhere, anytime. All you need is a few minutes and a quiet space.
The right combination of pure essential oils can have a direct influence on your limbic system and relieve stress. Our calm aromatherapy blend contains 100% pure rose, rose geranium, bergamot, ylang ylang, frankincense and lavender. All of these essential oils have been specifically chosen as they have a calming effect on the body to bring down stress and help to break the cycle.
Try combining a few of the above together, like doing a healing relaxation meditation while lying on the acupressure mat with music playing in the background and the diffuser burning the calm aromatherapy blend, to flood your body with endorphins from all angles, to help break the stress cycle.
So, don’t panic. Although stress affects our bodies in a multitude of ways and it feels like that annoying little sibling that just won't leave you alone, there are ways to deal with it effectively. Exercise, meditation, acupressure mats, music, aromatherapy and laughter are just some of the tools we can use to keep that stress monster at bay. So, take care of yourself, mate. You deserve it.