If you’re alive, you can pretty much assume you experience stress every single day. It helps us cope with daily pressures at home or in the office by increasing your heart and breathing rate, delivering more oxygen to the brain so that you’re more alert and able to deal with the situation faster. A hormone response which was originally used for human survival, stress has now evolved itself to fit in with our modern demanding world. But what happens when daily pressures mount up and stress levels become overwhelming?

Here are a few red flags to pay attention to, if you’ve been burning the candle at both ends.

Burnout

Feeling burned out? You could have adrenal fatigue. When the body is put under constant pressure the adrenal glands become overworked and fail to produce cortisol, the hormone that helps us cope with stress. Unfortunately, these hormones also regulate our energy production meaning that you’ll feel unable to handle daily demands and even find it difficult to get out of bed.

High Blood Pressure

Your body’s stress response is to make your heart work faster in order to deliver a larger volume of oxygen to the brain. Over time, the heart and bloody vessels becomes overworked and fragile, increasing your risk of hypertension and putting you at a higher risk for stroke and heart attack.

Weight Gain

Stress is one of the biggest barriers we have to weight loss. Not only do we use our tiredness as an excuse to avoid the gym, but the hormones themselves directly inhibit our body’s ability to burn fat.  When the adrenal glands are overworked our body prepares for a disaster by storing body fat and calories. In addition, this survival mechanism communicates to us that we have to consume whatever we can, making us want to binge eat (or in other words, raid the fridge!). Without getting stress levels under control, it’s extremely difficult to achieve your desired results in your workouts.

Recurring Illnesses

A bonus of the stress hormone cortisol is that is activates the immune system, however too much cortisol can actually inhibit the body’s ability to fight off infection and prolong recovery time. If you’ve been suffering from a cold which won’t shift or catch every bug floating around the office, you may be overstressed.

Muscle Pain

Our bodies are amazing machines and will do anything to protect themselves from danger. During stress muscles tense up to form a wall against injury, however prolonged stress means that the muscles don’t have a chance to relax. This causes headaches and back pain which in turn leads people to pain relief medication, triggering another unhealthy cycle and neglecting the root of the problem.



But why is it so important we manage the triggers of our stress?

It’s extremely common for people who are stressed to develop anxiety or depression, meaning that stress relief is an essential part of maintaining a healthy and happy life.

In order to do this, we must activate the parasympathetic nervous system which acts as a firefighter to the cortisol bonfire, restoring balance in our hormones.

Breathing exercises practised during yoga and mindfulness effectively trigger the parasympathetic nervous system by slowing down the breathing and heart rate. Taking your mind away from whatever is happening in the present moment will automatically relax your body and deactivate the stress response, giving everything a chance to rest and recharge. We may not be able to avoid life, but we can find pockets of time every day to escape into our own world and return better equipped to face our challenges.

Other ways we can successfully reduce stress are listening to calming music, walking in nature and limiting our intake of caffeine. It’s also important to eat a healthy diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which has been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress and keeps our brains happy.

Find ways today to free yourself from external stress which is preventing you from being your best self. You’ll feel more energetic and have a fresher, happier and healthier outlook on life. What are you waiting for?

Kate Whillock

Emotional Health Consultant

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