6 out of 10 people claim to be stressed. We all suffer from stress sometimes. And there’s nothing wrong with that, stress can even be good for us. But if you are constantly stressed and under pressure it can wreck havoc on your body longterm. My relationship with stress goes way back. Although for a long time I did not even realized that I was stressed. I had a busy job, traveling constantly with many events to attend and people to meet. A million tasks going on at the same time and decisions to make. But I loved it – until I didn’t love it anymore and that’s when I recognized that something is very wrong.
Stress is not what happens to you or around you but how you react to it. Everybody experiences and reacts to stress differently. It can come from your job, private life, (unhealthy) relationships, chronic illness, poor or wrong food choices, sleeping habits and so on. The list is endless. If stress is affecting you only for a short time, your body will deal with it accordingly. But chronic stress is a disruptor in so many ways and should be avoided.
Chronic Stress and sleep
If you are stressed, it is most likely that you will have trouble sleeping. Either falling asleep because your mind is racing or staying asleep. Many people wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep or only after hours of tossing and turning. Now why is that? When your body is stressed it releases cortisol and adrenalin to deal with the challenging situation. If this is a one time event, your body will get rid of those easily. But if you are chronically stressed your body is constantly producing more cortisol and adrenalin than necessary and it can’t get rid of it. After a while, your whole body gets confused and don’t know when to produce what anymore (this is super simple explained, the whole process is very complicated).
Chronic Stress and your digestion
For our intestines to digest properly, we need rest. If you’re constantly in a fight or flight mode, it is hard for your body to find the time and resources to make time for digestion. When we relax, we are in a parasympathetic state. Our body slows our breathing and activates our digestion and the absorption of food. Being in a stressed state will not give your body the opportunity to do this job correctly. Digestion is slowed down because other functions are more important at the moment. This can lead to food staying to long in the stomach and intestines and rotting. The consequence is gas, bloating, stomach pain and malabsorption. Another downside of too much cortisol is that it raises your blood sugar levels. This means food cravings which can lead to weight gain and diabetes long term.
Chronic stress leads to adrenal fatigue
Cortisol is produced in your adrenals. These are small hormonal glands sitting on top of your kidneys like a hat. Besides Cortisol, the adrenals produce a wide range of other hormones and neurotransmitters like adrenalin. If you are suffering from chronic stress for a long time your adrenals produce a lot of cortisol and adrenalin. This interrupts your natural hormone balance and lead to your adrenals becoming “tired”. They will produce lesser amounts of cortisol or at the wrong times leaving you “wired & tired”. It can be hard to get up in the morning and go to sleep at night because your hormones are chaos.
How can you prevent this?
The key is preventing to let the stress in your life become chronic. Be mindful of what is going on in your job or private life and with your health. Take breaks, say no and strive for an overall healthy lifestyle with nourishing food and liquids. Regulate your nervous system with breathwork and meditation. Make time for a hobby and spend time with friends and family. Go outside and spend time in nature, move your body and do some yoga. I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue in the beginning of 2020. Especially breathwork, proper nutrition and supplementing and reiki has helped me tremendously on my healing journey.