What’s one of the most common things someone says to you when you ask them how they are? ….STRESSED!
Stress has become an acceptable, and almost expected part of our modern lives, but what sort of toll is all this stress having on our bodies? Stress is being linked to the development of diseases from heart disease and obesity, to diabetes and depression.
But Why & How does it have such an Impact?
Stress can be caused by anything that you perceive to be stressful, whether it’s road rage, work overload, or a teenager who won’t listen; your body undergoes certain responses internally. Cortisol, a stress hormone, is released, which puts your body into ‘flight or fight” mode. Short term, this is not a problem and it can actually be beneficial in small doses, but if this continues long term, we start to see it negatively impact our bodies.
One of the roles cortisol plays in our body is to help regulate inflammation. If cortisol is being continuously released, our body becomes less sensitive to it, which means it isn’t able to control inflammation in the way it should. This can lead to high levels of inflammation, which is thought to promote the development of disease.
One study with 276 people showed that those who were under greater psychological stress were more likely to catch the common cold. It was found that those participants who were under stress were not able to regulate their inflammatory response, due to their hormone signaling not being as effective. [i]
Impacts of High Stress Levels:
- Increases the release of histamine, which can lead to broncho-constriction in asthmatics.
- Affects insulin needs, which can increase the risk of diabetes mellitus.
- Changes the acid concentration in the stomach, which can lead to peptic ulcers, ulcerative colitis and stress ulcers.
- Cause plaque build up in the arteries (atherosclerosis).
- Have been linked to tumour development and the suppression of the natural killer cells, which help to prevent metastasis.[ii]
Looking for Stress Relief? How you can Combat Stress in your Life:
Simple things, like making sure you are eating good food, getting enough fresh air, sunshine and sleep can all help lower stress levels. Low vitamin d levels have been shown to play a role in acute stress and critical illnesses[i], such as depression, however it is not yet known whether the low vitamin d causes the illness, or is a result of it. Consult your doctor - get your Vitamin D levels checked!
Stress Management Techniques:
One very effective method is a breathing technique, where you inhale through your nose for a count of 5, hold for a count of five, and then release through your mouth for a count of 5. Repeat this breathing exercise for one minute. What you are doing is activating your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to calm everything down in your body. Try it now and see how you feel.
Exercise, yoga, massages, meditation, laughing, catching up with friends, listening to music, or reading a book, simply taking some time out are some other techniques used to manage stress. It is important that you find what works for you and it is something that you enjoy doing, as this will help to de-stress you even faster!
[i] Carnegie Mellon University. "How stress influences disease: Study reveals inflammation as the culprit." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 April 2012.