WHY DO WE EXPERIENCE STRESS
Stress, like pain, plays an important role in keeping us alive. When we are faced with a treat, our body needs to quickly adapt, respond and take action in the best way possible to ensure our survival. The body needs to think quickly and move even quicker. Think of an emergency situation like if you are standing on ice and it starts cracking. Your brain needs to be sharp and focused to assess the situation and your muscles need to be strong and fast to quickly react in the proper course of action. In other words, your body needs to be enhanced to its optimal form if it is to survive. This process is known as the “fight-or-flight” response or the “stress response” identified by the release of adrenaline and cortisol, the two main hormones used in the arousing the body into action.
In preparing you to fight the threat or to run away from it, stress brings about a set of physiological changes such as a stronger heartbeat or a quicker breathing rate. Even though your stress response is a way of protecting you, it doesn’t mean it’s always the RIGHT response. Unfortunately our nervous system has a hard time differentiating between a physical threat and a physiological threat. This means, your body can easily react to being late at a meeting as strongly as if you came face to face with a bear. Yet a certain amount of stress can be beneficial. Some individuals are driven by stress as they ride the mental clarity and enhanced energetic drive to fuel their ambition and positively change their lifestyle.
Beyond a certain point, stress stopes being helpful. Over the long run, stress is detrimental to overall health as it overcharges the body’s systems in every way possible. The body is naturally designed to returns to normal before reaching this point. This ability to return to a normal state after the initial stress response is crucial! Problem is, in some situation, the stressors never leave and in others, new stressors come about frequently. Unfortunately, the more frequently stress system is activated, the easier it is to get triggered and the harder it is to turn off. This is when individuals start feeling weighed down by the constant surge of hormones and fall into destructive patterns such as drinking, smoking, dietary changes or risky behaviors to try to kick start their calm state.
NEGATIVES EFFECT OF STRESS
The role of the stress response is to redirect the body’s energy to where it is needed the most to survive a treat. This means certain aspect are deprioritized. The immune system is a good example of this. Stressed individuals have been shown to be more prone to develop diseases; they have a lower pain threshold and a stronger inflammatory response to injuries. They also have a marked increase in oxidative stress damage which speeds up the aging process. The digestive tract is also one of the downregulated organs affected by stress. Sensitivity to numerous foods, a harder time digesting, an easier weight gain, a greater difficulty to eliminate bodily toxins that can lead to skin conditions such as eczema present with chronic stress attests to this change.
The brain is also highly affected by the chronic presence of these stress hormones. It can even rewire the brain, leaving it more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. Stress causes short-term memory as well, because it focuses the mind in remembering painful events in order to later avoid them. In doing so, it causes the mind to suppress positive memories in exchange for storing stressful emotionally-charged memories. The brain ability to think clearly is also negatively affected by stress. Luckily, research has shown that L-Theanine inhibits the neuron excitability to the cortical hormones released by the stress response. This means that after 30 min of taking L-Theanine, people feel considerably calmer and more focused. The ability of L-Theanine to calms the body without compromising mental clarity is due to its stimulating effect on the alpha waves, which are associated with a relaxed, focused and awake state of mind. Only when the nervous system is free of these excessive stress signals, can energy flow properly in the body.
IS YOUR BEHAVIOR MAKING YOUR STRESS WORSE
Not all individuals stress threshold is the same. Everyone’s “too much” differs from one person to the next. So why do some people react better to stressors than others? Apart from genetics, your ability to deal with stress is affected by your daily behaviors. For example, magnesium levels closely correlate with a person’s stress levels. Stress depletes the body’s magnesium stores and, on the flip side, a magnesium deficiency reduces a person’s tolerance to stress. Interestingly enough, 70% of the western world are consuming less than the recommended dose of around 360 mg/day.
Inadequate nutrition often accompanies chronically stressful lifestyle. Most stressed individuals engage in a nutrient empty diet consisting of high consumption of carbohydrates, saturated fats, caffeine (coffee or sodas) and alcohol which reduces the body’s Magnesium levels and furthers the Magnesium-stress cycle.
A strong psychological framework is also important when battling stress. A support system, knowledge of your triggers and an ability to voice and understand your emotions can change your response to stressors. Skullcap, a plant part of the mint family, has nerve-calming powers that give the mind the ability to reduce the nervous system irritability and more easily assess the situation. This allows you to break raise the stress threshold and face next stressors.
Knowing your breaking point is important to prevent the damages stress can cause to your health. Learning how to come back from your breaking point, prevent you from getting trapped into the downward spiraling stress cycle. Plants such as the Linden have been used in herbal medicine for its soothing and sedative virtues. It’s knows for reducing the physical symptoms of stress such as eliminates heart palpitations and muscle spasms frequently associated with stress.
If you have confidence in your ability to influence events and persevere through challenges Stress-hardy people tend to embrace challenges, have a stronger sense of humor, believe in a higher purpose, and accept change as an inevitable part of life.