What is really happening when you get stressed?
Mikaela Isa, Performance Coach
Stress is a fact of life, unfortunately our body doesn’t differentiate between emotional and physical stress. It’s important to understand what is happening inside the body when stress occurs to support our health in the best way possible and optimize recovery! We must learn how to stop and listen to the cues our bodies are giving us before it takes over our most essential functions. When you get stressed your body produces a hormone called “cortisol”. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands which sit on top of each kidney. When released into the bloodstream, cortisol can act on many different parts of the body and can help your body respond to stress or danger.
Most bodily cells have cortisol receptors, it affects many different functions in the body. Cortisol can help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, and assist with memory formulation. It has a controlling effect on salt and water balance and helps control blood pressure. After the pressure or danger has passed, your cortisol level should calm down. Your heart, blood pressure, and other body systems will get back to normal. But what if you’re under constant stress and the alarm button stays on?
It can derail your body’s most important functions. It can also lead to a number of health problems, including:
● Anxiety and depression
● Heart disease
● Memory and concentration problems
● Problems with digestion
● Trouble sleeping
● Weight gain
In order to combat stress and get back to our relaxed state we need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Stress has the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) activated and as we’ve seen above, being in that state for too long can cause lasting health issues.
How can we activate the parasympathetic nervous system?
● Deep Breathing
Set a timer for 5 minutes, put your feet up on the wall and focus on deep breathing in through your nose to fill your belly with air for 5 seconds and then slowly exhale out your mouth for 5-7 seconds.
●Touch your lips gently with your eyes closed, pay attention to how it makes your belly feel. Your lips have parasympathetic fibers spread throughout them, so touching them activates the parasympathetic nervous system.
● Take a bath!
● Light aerobic exercise
○. Yoga & Stretching
○. Talk a walk
What else can I do to help de-stress?
● Organize your thoughts and tasks, make a list of what you need to do and prioritize it by giving each task a
deadline or goal of when you want to accomplish the task. This tells your subconscious a few things.
○ You will get what you need to get done.
○ You won’t forget what you need to do.
○ This gives you something to work toward and achieve, it will not only be rewarding but it will bring a sense of
purpose to your day/week.
● Get the right amount of sleep. 7 hours+ to help your body recover from the stress you face mentally, emotionally
● Recognize stressful thinking - “stinkin thinkin”
Some are naturally more negative than others, some are more positive. Each way of thinking has its place and the right balance can have your mental state singing harmonies. Too much one way or the other and it causes an imbalance. Particularly dwelling on negative thoughts, emotions or making up scenarios in your head (no you’re not the only one who does that)
○ Journal - writing out your thoughts can be an escape. This is especially helpful for emotional stressors, it
can be just as helpful as talking to an old friend.
○ Write a bible verse or an affirmation for yourself and put it where you can see it.
● Learn to say no to things you don’t have time for, you do not need to do it all.
● Take a break when you are overwhelmed. This could be 5 minutes or this could be a season of life where you take a break from added responsibilities.
Author: Annemarie Alf
"We Specialize In Optimizing Teen And Active Adult Lives In North County San Diego By Addressing The WHOLE Person. We offer A Holistic, Integrative Approach To Performance And Wellness That Will Assess And Address The Root Causes That Lead To Pain, Hormonal Imbalances, Fatigue, Weight Gain And/ Or Decreased Performance."