Are you feeling the pressure of life at the moment?
Are you more tired, or stressed or ill, not sleeping well, or, or…
My last three posts were about the cosmic reasons for why everything is a little crazy just now and the next few will explore the individual reasons why you may be affected in one way more than another.
I’m starting with the absolute basics of what occurs in the body when we react to stress because this is still not understood fully. The understanding of this could be potentially life saving!
Classic fight or flight
Most people are aware of this phrase without knowing what is actually occurring in the body. This mechanism kicks in whenever there is some kind of perceived threat. That is, when we experience fear in some form and our body reacts.
Examples of threats apart from obvious and immediate physical danger would of course be financial worry, feeling frightened about the well-being of loved ones, possible job loss, trying to meet deadlines, overwhelm of some kind, being undermined or put down in some way, being criticized, worrying that we’ve done something wrong or actually making a mistake and of course being subjected to a relentless media campaign of fear about a virus.
Are you experiencing any of the following? This list is by no means exhaustive.
Effects of prolonged stress on the body
- Heart problems
- Blood pressure issues
- Gut dysfunction – IBS, allergies and food intolerances.
- Poor resistance to infections or auto-immune diseases.
- Inflammation increases leading to many chronic health problems.
- Constant tensing of muscles without relaxation leads to stiffness, pain, chronic tension, headaches and sleep difficulties.
- Feeling dizzy and light headed
- Brain fog
- Weight gain or worrying loss of weight
- Constant tiredness
- Adrenal and kidney issues
In the mind and emotions
- Depression, anxiety, nervous breakdown and other mental health issues
- Constantly weepy and overwhelmed
- Increase in anger and destructive behaviour
- Loss of humour, finding no lightness in life
- Increased low mood, not necessarily depression, just a flat feeling.
- A loss of interest and pride in our appearance or the opposite such as obsessive interest in how we look
- Difficulty making decisions
- Compulsive overworking, over eating, increased alcohol consumption, taking drugs
- Feel like we’re dragging through the day
- Feeling wired and tired but can’t sleep properly so get more tired.
How can being stressed possibly cause the above?
In 1932, Walter Cannon’s research established the theory of “fight or flight”. What this research showed was that when we are threatened (or feel threatened) our bodies rapidly release a cascade of hormones from various triggered glands to prepare us for action. To stand our ground and fight or run away as fast as possible.
The hypothalamus gland reacts first by signalling the pituitary (known as the master gland as it secretes chemicals that influence the action of the body’s cells) to signal the adrenal glands which inform the body to prioritize the muscles, heart, lungs and brain – to enable the body to take action. The liver then releases glucose into the bloodstream for energy. More oxygen and an increased flow of blood for the muscles are needed so the breath becomes more rapid, the heart rate speeds up and blood pressure rises. The adrenal glands release adrenaline, which is needed to increase the heart rate – the “wired for action” response.
Other systems such as the digestive and the immune system take second place, either being disrupted or having less energy to work efficiently. All organs and systems not needed for action go into temporary survival mode.
While this response is needed in order to take action, it is not so useful if there’s no physical outlet to use up the results of the reaction. If the threat is ongoing then it’s fairly easy to see how the body becomes compromised. If the stimulus is ongoing then parts of the body will begin to function less efficiently.
How we react will be individual and based on other factors such as inherent physical weaknesses, particular emotions, diet and possible lack of certain nutrients.
Regaining health, vitality and harmony can entail detective work, we are each different but what is common to all is that effort on our part is needed to make whatever changes may be necessary.
The next post in this series will examine what each of us tend to do instead of taking action.