Why is Stress so Harmful?
Our bodies have a built-in response to stress that is a natural part of our physiology. This physical reaction, known as the fight-or-flight response, is triggered whenever we encounter a stressful or fearful event.
This system is part of the genetic wisdom that protects us from physical harm. Throughout early human development, the fight-or-flight response was critical to survival. However, in our modern world filled with high-pressure jobs, traffic, and too little time, the fight-or-flight response is rarely triggered by actual physical danger.
Instead, worry and anxiety, combined with living in a world that's moving too fast, prompts most instances of fight-or-flight today, and it's happening far more often than the human body is prepared to manage.
Here's why . . .
During fight-or-flight, our adrenal glands go into overdrive. The chemicals they release to deal with stress are adrenaline and cortisol.
When chronic stress forces the release of these powerful hormones multiple times a day, the body struggles to maintain homeostasis, or balance, and the risk of disease rises dramatically. Here are just a few of the possible side effects of chronic stress, or what some concerned healthcare professions are now calling "super-stress":
* Increased body-fat (even when you're not overeating)
* Decreased bone density
* High blood pressure
* Inhibition of the Immune System (heightens risk for infectious diseases and cancer)
* Muscle wasting (including the heart)
* Insulin resistance (the precursor to diabetes)
* Dry skin and brittle hair and nails
How Do You Know if You're at Risk?
There are a number of clues that can tell you if you've already fallen prey to the effects of today's super-stress. For example, stress stimulates the hormones that regulate the body's desire for fat and carbs. If you find that you regularly crave sweets and high-fat foods while at the same time feeling lethargic and tired, it could be attributable to high cortisol levels in your body. In other words, your cravings and sluggishness may actually be your body's cry for help.
Here is a checklist of additional symptoms. How many apply to you?
* Inability to tolerate much exercise
* Feeling worse after exercising
* Inability to lose weight even while dieting
* Water retention
* Symptoms of low blood sugar (irritability or anxiety when too long without eating)
* Need for caffeine
* Sweet, fat and salt cravings
* Ability to relieve depression by eating
* Chronic gastrointestinal problems (acid reflux, irritable bowel, ulcers)
If you checked any of the above, it's possible that your body is trying to warn you that it's fallen out of balance, and that you need to get control of your stress now. Fortunately, there's a simple solution...
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Lara Aitken, Holistic Doctor, Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture Physician, Reiki Practitioner, Hypno-therapist.