STRESS: THE SILENT KILLER
During your morning commute to work (that seemingly takes forever) you’re thinking about how your parents are coming to visit for the weekend. You need to plan and decide what’s for dinner tonight. Oh, and when was your latest work assignment supposed to be due again? Plus, don’t forget you’re low on pet food? Constantly throughout the day, we are plagued by things that bring us stress. This can be happy stress (family visit) or bad stress (commute/traffic). Stress is something each of us faces on a regular basis. While small amounts of stress can encourage the body – it’s a very fine line between healthy stress levels (and how we cope) and too much. Just like an athlete can get amped up for the big event, the adrenaline caused by stress can actually increase productivity. But, most of us don’t have coaches like those athletes and have a hard time understanding and managing our stress.
If you are experiencing stress, even thinking about a previous stressful situation your body goes into the ‘flight or fight mode’. Amping up and giving your bodies that instant boost; your heart starts pounding, it feels like your hearing and eyesight is sharper, your reflexes feel faster. These are all symptoms of the body getting ‘primed’; which is exactly how the human system should react. If something is happening you want to have your body ready to go and cooperate, to function normally if not better than average. The tricky part is, these ‘stressful’ reactions are meant for when the person is in danger. What happens in real life nowadays is exactly the opposite. We get a little bit late for our appointment and we start to get antsy – if it’s for a dentist, maybe more tension is present. If you ‘over-use’ the natural reactions problems can set in.
These small incidents of stress are minor, but when they start to compound is when health issues can arise. The one body region many of us look at during stress is the heart; more specifically heart and blood pressure issues. Someone who has high blood pressure we think of as being over-stressed. But this really is just the tip of the iceberg. The foundation of all stress related ill-effects can always be traced back to enzymes.
If enzymes are the foundation of our health, then being in a constant state of stress is crumbling what our bodies are built on and made of. These enzymes are what help us digest and break down our food so we get the raw materials for everything else. Beyond that, these enzymes help with keeping our blood clean, an important factor when you consider that the heart muscle has to pump this blood all day every day. If it’s the least bit clogged this can create a greater burden on an already tired muscle. Why create more work then we have too.
DID YOU KNOW?
The main concern can also come when you consider that enzymes are responsible for almost everything that occurs within the human body.
Think of hormones, muscle growth, hair growth, immune function, nerve communication, memory, blood, digestion and cellular production and healing; all of these use enzymes in some shape or form. If those enzymes are not there or severely depleted the body will absolutely suffer!
Have you ever experienced a time where you knew you had to eat, but had no appetite and forced yourself to eat maybe an apple? Or what about that super quick power bar you ate at lunch because you’ve been in and out of important meetings all day?
When your stress levels rise even slightly your enzyme levels start to drop immediately. So even eating the best food you might not be able to fully absorb, digest or assimilate all the good nutrients. For the food that you’re not absorbing it just starts to sit inside your gut, leading to further ill-health. Many who have high stress levels have such a hard time digesting food, and throwing their enzyme levels out of balance they start to react to food (upset stomach, bloating and gas). Ulcers have long been attributed to stress, while there has never been a direct link, both are very common in our society today and this relationship should not be ignored. When your heart starts pumping, and that adrenaline starts to kick in – you know your adrenals are working in overtime. Your adrenal glands are the ones that produce and regulate a lot of the ‘stress’ hormones (like epinephrine/adrenaline). In our current modern world, we’ve found synthetic ways to produce similar effects within our body; stimulants. There is a massive widespread use of), nicotine, caffeine, sugar, prescription medicines (Adderall) as well as illegal stimulants like cocaine and MDMA (some would even argue that cacao is a stimulant as well). A small nudge is ok, but, what happens is in these can become addictive in that you need more to get the same result. You are no longer running on your body’s own natural ‘energy’ but rather synthetic fuel. (Maybe that’s why so many of us have a hard time without coffee).
The effects of stress do more than just affect the body itself, they also tend to creep into the mind. It's an area that many don't like to venture. That doesn't change the fact that stress negatively affects both mood and behaviour.
Stress can be a leading cause of a long list of symptoms including; headaches, anxiety, depression, aggression, mood swings, irritability. Each on their own might be minor, but usually with stress these effects are compounded. In other words, you’re not just stressed-you’re tired, cranky, moody, grumpy and nervous all at once (or some other combination). Notice how many of the ‘stimulants’ are also addictive, making them doubly hard on the body. What makes the stress cycle so hard to crack, is this myriad of symptoms make it difficult to break the cycle. If you’re feeling depressed it’s hard to motivate yourself to do something like exercise (which increases natural endorphins and is a mood booster). It’s always that first step – the getting up off the couch which seems the most difficult. Stress has a way of making small tasks seems monumental in proportion. Don’t let stress fool you! Try to limit the stress in your regular routine. If you can’t limit what you’re exposed to – find an outlet that lets you de-stress. A multitude of varying options exist that you can choose from to determine the ideal way for you to reduce your stress. The hard part is just picking one. Don’t assume that what works for someone else will work for you. It may seem easy to just shrug off your stress, your deadlines and feel like you can carry the world on your shoulders. But, just like the athlete before a race – you can’t run forever. Your body has limits on the stress it can handle. While it may feel ok today what happens tomorrow could be a different story; the constant burdening on your body, the depletion of enzymes. Slowly chipping away at the foundation of your house – you may not feel yourself tipping before you fall. For most of us, it’s unrealistic to remove all stress from our lives. So the next best option is to find ways to help your body relax and adapt to stress differently. Take for example the act of consciously relaxing while your morning drive to work – or driving in general where there can be many mini-stressors. By internally viewing the ‘stressor’ as annoying versus a major disturbance of your peace you can adopt a calmer driving personality. This will help your morning drive to work, starting your day (at least work days) on a much more relaxed note. I’m sure your bosses will much prefer you less stressed before you even get to work – on the flip side, employees definitely like a calmer more relaxed boss!
So plan for tomorrow by reducing your stress today!