Stress has become a normal part of our busy culture. Some stress in our life is a good thing but too much and it negatively impacts our physical and mental health. The reasons for feeling stressed are all around us. Work is often a major source of stress and if it’s not that then it’s family life that stresses us.
The tell tale signs and symptoms of being too stressed are:
- Poor sleep and frequent waking
- Waking up feeling tired and remaining tired
- Poor concentration and focus
- Feeling irritable, angry, anxious or depressed
- Hair loss (typically occurring three months after a major stressful event/injury)
- Digestive problems like excessive belching, bloating and wind that leads to nutrient deficiencies
- Recurrent infections
If you are experiencing some or all of these signs and symptoms then it worth exploring the role stress is playing in your health.
How stress works
Adrenal glands are designed to respond to stress by enabling us to flee from potential danger. You could be attacked by a sabre tooth tiger at any moment and our brains are geared towards getting you away from perceived dangers.
Adrenaline is a hormone produced by the body when it senses a stressful condition. This is a good thing since it helps us cope with stress. It’s what makes us productive and energetic when we need to be. However, when we rely on adrenaline to get us through the day, every day, it becomes a problem. This eventually wears us down and can lead to the aforementioned secondary health problems.
The bottom line is that adrenaline is important and beneficial, but relying on it to get us through the day might lead to bigger issues in the long run. That’s why managing our stress throughout the journey is crucial.
More clues that stress is negatively impacting you
The symptoms of stress are numerous, as we saw at the beginning of this article. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine whether stress is affecting you.
Is my sleep a problem?
We see stress trigger insomnia when cortisol hormone levels remain high at night. When this happens, melatonin stops being produced at a high enough level. This means sleep onset and maintenance are negatively affected.
Do I get coughs and colds often?
If you’re frequently sick, it’s possible that stress is depleting your immune system. Chronic stress causes a reduction in white cells meaning your innate immunity is not as robust and you are prone to recurrent infections.
Am I irritable or grumpy?
The constant release of adrenaline depletes feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine, robbing you of the nutrients required to make those neurotransmitters.
Am I overweight?
High levels of cortisol result in weight gain over time because stress causes blood glucose levels to remain elevated. That may be evident in weight accumulation around the waist for both men and women.
If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, it’s probably time to seek help.
How to treat stress
The most apparent treatment is to eliminate the source of the problem. This means giving up your high-powered and rewarding job for a life on a tropical island, which may not be feasible for everyone. However, if that isn’t an option, there are plenty of alternative treatment choices available.
Exercise, a healthy diet, time away from the source of your stress, and other lifestyle adjustments (yoga, running, or gardening) can all assist you in rebalancing.
For a more targeted treatment approach, talk to us about some testing, including a morning blood sample of your cortisol, which is an excellent starting point for determining your stressed levels and developing a personalised therapy approach.
We can also do a saliva adrenal hormone profile, which measures cortisol and DHEA-S (the hormone that controls our body’s stress response), over a 24-hour period to provide us with information into the degree of stress you are in and how we may address it.