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Jennifer Lacelle

Sept 28, 2023

It's a Killer...

It’s probably fair to say that stress has impacted everyone in some way. Whether oneself or friends/family, it’s something that’s always there.

The definition of stress (according to Oxford Languages), in relation to the physical body, is: “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”

So, what can cause stress? Statistically, the highest variable that creates stress is employment. According to information collected by WebMD, 40 per cent of Americans list their workplace as their primary source of stress (making it the top variable).

Other sources can include big life changes, worry, lack of control over situations, overwhelmed with responsibilities, abuse, uncertainty, or lots of pressure (to name but a few). In short, almost anything in life can put stress on someone.

Of course, every body is different so what might stress Person 1, may not stress Person 2.

Stress Hormones

The body is run by hormones that we produce. The ones that result from stress are norepinephrine, cortisol, adrenaline (epinephrin). These are essentially the ones that control our heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar to help us handle situations that make us feel stress.

The adrenal glands release cortisol, which is a steroid hormone. This is the one most people are used to hearing about, probably because the body regularly releases small amounts of it to help with our general long term bodily stress. Though it increases blood sugar levels and energy. However, long-term high doses can have detrimental effects like weight gain, anxiety and depression.

When it comes to emotional stress responses (a necessary component when in danger), it’s all about the catecholamines — which includes epinephrin and norepinephrine. The first of which is all about that “fight or flight” response as massive jolts being released increases the heart rate and blood pressure, as well as blood flow through the body.  Norepinephrine makes people more alert and attentive and is usually delivered to the body in small doses; that being said, both over the long-term consistency can lead to anxiety, lack of sleep and irritability.

Dopamine is also included with the catecholamines; this is typically known as the “reward” hormone. It helps people adapt to stressful situations, though not much more research is known in this area. However, it’s considered a mood and pleasure booster (for our neurotransmitters).

One more big one relating to stress is vasopressin. Odds are you’ve heard it here or there in conversations over stress, but did you know this hormone assists in regulating water metabolism and blood pressure? See how it’s related…

This hormone is released in the blood system when stress occurs and it constricts the blood vessels, increasing the pressure. It also tells the kidneys to re-absorb water from the urine, which means you’ll pee less — creating dehydration.

Chronic Stress on the Body

Being under constant stress is absolutely no fun. But if you look at it medically, it’s going far beyond what most people think of stress as “part of life.” It’s been linked to heart disease, stroke, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression/anxiety, cognitive issues, gastrointestinal issues, weaker immune system, weight problems, hair and nail loss, and sleep issues.

It’s also likely that someone under constant stress is going to have brain fog/headaches, irritability, inability to concentrate, libido fluctuations, skin issues, asthma or arthritis flare ups, and abnormal heart beats.

Sometimes it comes down to medical problems like endocrine disorders or Graves’ disease (a form of hypothyroidism, gonadal dysfunction (hormone imbalances in menstrual cycles and testes). Obesity is also considered a medical factor that can add/develop stress.

Coping With Stress

Each body and personality is different, just like everyone is individual there are a multitude of suggestions on how to deal with stress. Because it’s not just physical, but mental, there are even ways to identify triggers and get it under control before it flares up.

So, what are some measures you can take?

·       Lifestyle Habits

o   Nutrition: everything put in bodies gets absorbed, good or bad. Make sure to eat veggies, fruits, and lean protein (and healthy fats, not the deep-fried stuff).

§  Some supplements like Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Magnesium are recommended to help with inflammation and sleep quality.

o   Sleep: crucial for stress management! Make sure your bedroom, and bed, are comfortable and relaxing settings. Avoid sugar, caffeine and alcohol before hitting the sack.

o   Meditation: relaxation techniques promote well-ness and calm, which lower stress levels. Try a breathing exercise or follow a simple yoga session or tai chi (online resources are easily found).

o   Exercise: yeah, yeah – we all know it’s good for us. But do we really understand why? It releases tension, improves mood and actually lowers cortisol. It’s no wonder we feel better after going for a walk.

·       Personal Life

o   Writing: journaling is proven to reduce stress and anxiety. It can also help clear or untangle thoughts. Writing down gratuity can also make an impact since it can remind you of the positive aspects of life.

o   Relationships: volunteering in the community and developing (and nurturing) relationships with friends and family.

o   Humour: believe it or not, laughing is a great medicine! It improves your mood, which affects stress.

o   Tasks: make small lists so that it doesn’t overwhelm you. Put them in order of importance. Remember, don’t let making the list stress you out.

Furthermore, you can (and should) consult medical professionals. Your family doctor might not specialize in stress specifically, but they can point you in the right direction!

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