Date : August 3, 2015
Time : 2:00 pm

Stress Management Fight or Flight: Your Response to Stress

Thousands of years ago, we may have been faced with the threat of a large bear and our immediate response to this was one of two reactions: to attack or run away. This is now known as the fight or flight response. Once this stress response is triggered, chemical messengers called adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenaline are produced by the adrenal glands and brain. These messengers increase blood flow to the essential organs such as the heart, lungs, brain and muscles to help us fight or run away. Digestive function slows down as this is less important in survival mode. Cortisol also increases the amount of sugar released into the blood to provide energy for our muscles to attack or run. In the past, stress was short-lived and once the stress was over, these chemical messengers shortly returned to normal. Our adrenals are meant to handle stress for short periods of time.

The problem now is chronic stress, what is chronic stress?
Over time our bodies have not changed this biological response to stress. Although we are not faced by a large bear every day, our acute stress is now replaced with the modern day stress of long work hours, financial worries, traffic jams and family issues. So what happens if this stress response does not turn off because of our non-stop busy lifestyles?
Ongoing stress that does not resolve may result in chronic stress, which can be the underlying cause of many health conditions. Chronic stress can impact body systems such as the cardiovascular system by contributing to high blood pressure. It can also take its toll on your nervous system leading to exhaustion, headaches and insomnia. Your digestive and immune systems can also be weakened by stress, making you more susceptible to irritable bowel syndrome, frequent colds and the flu.
You may now have low stress or be very good at controlling your stress or even have low cortisol in your blood tests now but unfortunately chronic exposure to cortisol can increase inflammation throughout the body (increasing levels of cytokines) causing chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia. High stress and cortisol levels exposure can also suppresses thyroid-hormone metabolism. Suppressed thyroid function blocks your active thyroid T3 hormone and increases levels of inactive reverse T3 which reduces the number of calories the body burns. (Even if your thyroid TSH blood test comes back in normal range.)
Chronic cortisol is the primary signal for inflammatory induced adipose abdominal fat gain – the belly region! Causing obesity, also in the liver (fatty liver) causing diabetes and in the Brain affecting memory such as in Alzheimer’s.
5 Top Stress Busting Tips, the most effective tools available for combating stress and keeping cortisol levels from getting the best of you.
Lessen your stress load by practising the following stress busting strategies:
1. Rest and Relaxation: Relaxation techniques such as tai chi, yoga, and meditation can help you to control stress and improve physical and mental well being.
2. Think Positive: A good attitude and positive outlook is fundamental for de-stressing. Thinking positively will help you get through a stressful period with greater enthusiasm and drive.
3. Exercise: Exercise is a brilliant form of stress relief, as it conditions the body and mind, and encourages the release of endorphins, which help you feel good.
4. Indulge Yourself: Enjoy a well-deserved massage or some other blissful treatment – perhaps soak in a bath with relaxing aromatherapy oils such as lavender, ylang ylang, chamomile or geranium.
5. Eat Healthy Foods: For a healthy mind and body, eat a diet abundant in fresh, brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. Consume protein with meals and snacks, and enjoy foods high in essential fatty acids such as oily fish, nuts and seeds. Minimise your intake of caffeine, energy drinks, sugar, alcohol and processed foods as these will contribute to fatigue in the long-term.
Although the stress of modern life is inescapable, it is important to remember that we can easily manage our response to stress with the help of dietary and lifestyle changes and some key natural medicines. Supporting a healthy stress response will allow you to feel more energised, resilient and ready to tackle life, so you can maintain the state of health and wellness that you deserve.