Stress and the Stress of It
I want to talk about something today that is overlooked and under "diagnosed".
Sometimes, we see the onset of physical symptoms that "appear from seemingly no where." These symptoms may be strong or severe enough to prompt us to go to a medical doctor. Dizziness, headaches, stomach aches or abnormal bowel movements, light headedness, heartburn, neck or back pain, sexual differences like dysfunction or just lower libido, a change in appetite (either increased or decreased), lower energy, or a combination of any of these symptoms can become severe enough that would make us think that something is truly happening to our bodies that we would need medical intervention. Something is truly happening to our body, but in many cases, we might be overlooking and under "diagnosing" a very common problem.
More often than not, things do not just appear out of nowhere.
If we look back at the past leading up to the onset of these symptoms, we can often discover consistencies that give us at the very least, a great starting point. Something that is not invasive and that yields absolutely NO negative side effects.
Identifying our stress levels, and working on our stress coping strategies.
Here me out:
Let's take a look at stress on its own.
Not all stress is bad stress, we call this 'Eustress'. Exercise, for example, is a stress on the body in a physical sense, that can help our bodies grow, adapt, strengthen our muscles, build bone density, improve cardiorespiratory function, etc. That could be a great stress, in which helps keep us healthy, because it does change our chemical and hormonal balance, by releasing endorphins. That feel good state we get in when we received the bonus or promotion we were stressed about and working so hard for. This physiological change in the body reacting to what the brain is thinking, can also explain things like the "butterflies" we feel in our stomaches.
However, 'Distress', a stress that the physical body recognizes as a negative stress can be very harmful- more than we would like to realize, and often times, admit. Whether the stress is physical or mental, there is a physical reaction to the body, same as Eustress, but in a different way... in a negative way. Similarly to the "butterflies" we can feel, we can also feel pain and bloating, which can affect our digestion and ability to block intestinal bacteria from entering the body. In the brain, we also release adrenalin as well as glucocorticoids (including norepinephrine and cortisol, known as the "stress hormone). This brain-body communication as a result of stress (good or bad) is extremely important. Over a sustained period of time, this over release of hormones due to stress will interfere with the mind-body communication.
Distress also causes an elevated heart rate and a dilation of the blood vessels to let the blood reach muscles faster. Along with the elevate heart rate, distress can cause our lungs to constrict and a higher respiratory rate- meaning our breathing changes. We increase our breathing rate, and typically don't focus on or literally have a hard time exhaling, so our removal of CO2 in the body changes to a different rate. The change of breathing can be severe and turn to hyperventilation or an asthma or anxiety attack.
A final physical change (to discuss today) that happens to our body when we are distressed is a contraction of muscles. It can be so intense that it causes a spasm, or back/neck pain. You've heard it, many of us hold tension in our necks. This is a real thing. It is an actual holding of our distress in our contracted muscles- which we can let go when the stress passes. But what if it doesn't? If we are constantly stressed, it will turn to worse and worse pain.
These are the immediate things that physically happening due to stress. So something that someone says can stress us out and then we WILL have a physical response, whether you want to or not. That's the way our (AWESOME) bodies are so complexly designed. And there is no getting around it. Let's talk now about what happens if we don't have any stress relieving strategies and we hold stress for longer than just moments of our life.
If we are in a constant state of stress:
Our body won't be able to properly digest food, and can change appetite, as well as lead to inflammation and dysfunction in the digestion system, as seen in Irritable Bowel Syndrome (or Disease). If our bodies allow gut bacteria into our system, it will eventually wear down our Immune system, and we will become more susceptible to sickness and even severe diseases
Our mind- body communication eventually wears down. With impairment on our Central Nervous System, it won't effectively be able to release the proper amount of hormones during stress. With dysfunction of releasing hormones wears on the health of our Endocrine System.
An elevated heart rate, constricted lungs leads to a weakening of the Respiratory System and dilated blood vessels to the muscles leads to a weakening of the blood vessel walls as well as high blood pressure and a weakening of the heart and Cardiovascular System from over working. Over a long period of time, this can lead to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or heart issues as severe as a fatal heart attack.
If our muscles are contracted constantly without rest and relaxation, it can lead to injury of the Musculoskeletal System and/or pain, like tension headaches.
Ok so that was a lot. But it is important to see how stress is linked to more than just our mind or mindset. It is heavily linked to the function of our physical bodies.
Here's the catch, we have a lot of control over helping this. That's how awesome and great the human body is. It can almost always grow and change. So maybe you have experienced some of these symptoms with seemingly no explanation, maybe it's time to look at your stress levels, because it's a good chance that it's stress related.
Check out these two unbelievably high stats***:
Forty-three percent of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
75-90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
Here's the thing, if you're experiencing these symptoms of physical pain, dizziness, lightheadedness, abnormal bowel movements or digestion problems, headaches, etc, you can go to a doctor. They might (/will probably) prescribe you medication for the symptom. However, if you're not treating the problem, you will need those medicines forever. Furthermore, you're just adding more synthetic chemistry into your body to sort out. Not to mention the potential negative side effects you many get from the medicine.
Maybe instead of prescribing you medication, they tell you to look at your Diet&Exercise. The truth is a large portion of our general population would describe themselves as eating "generally healthy", despite the fact that 42% of our adult population is considered Obese****. Another truth is that adding the generic "Exercise" to your daily regime might not be the best for you depending on your particular symptoms and considerations. For example, someone with high blood pressure should NOT be following a general exercise program. As a health professional, I have studied the past ten years about the contraindications (meaning the things and exercises that exacerbate problems)- as in, there are things that can make your condition worse if you are following a general exercise program.
So what should you do?
The first, least invasive and SAFEST thing you can do is to look at your stress levels honestly.
First, identifying the things that even have the slightest chance of adding to your Distress.
Second, look at your Eustress. How many moments during your week/month are you experiencing the good stress, the good feeling, the butterflies, etc. and weigh that to your Distress.
Next, you can use Our Most Underrated Tool, and focus on your breathing. First thing in the morning, starting your day with quality breathing to set you up for the day. Taking an extra second when something triggers you or taking a break when things are feeling overwhelming and focusing on some quality breathing can help ALOT. It can help ease physical pain, or aid in digestion/bowel movements. Seriously, give my previous post for more on this!
Hard as it is, you will need to refine your boundaries. Look at what causes you stress and reevaluate your boundaries. For example, it is stressful to have children. Obviously you can't just get rid of them, so you need to create coping strategies for the most stressful times. Think of it as putting on your oxygen mask before you can put on someone else's. You might be thinking, "Okay well that's just not possible" and I would challenge you to ask yourself if it is ultimately worth a heart attack. Same thing goes for stress from a job, is it worth your life? Is it worth your health? This step may require additional professional help, like therapy. And there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, having a therapist that can help you create strategies and coping mechanisms might literally be a life saver for you.
Another thing that is often mentioned in my reading and learning, is the time you allot for yourself and your social circle. Taking alone time might be something you need. And mindless social media scrolling or game playing doesn't actually count. Taking a walk, listening to music, or having a good, safe workout might be something that you need as a priority. Calling friends to vent or check in and give a friend support might be stress relieving for you. On the other side, noting your boundaries for how much support you give to friends or family and maintaining them for your health could be what you need.
Getting rid of the stress that doesn't serve you is hard to do but necessary for good health. These are the coping strategies, and they are imperative to controlling your own health and life. Again, if you don't have any or don't know how to create them, investing in a professional might be the single best thing you can do. Being open to letting it transform your life will be the follow up to that;)
With all that said, the human body is unbelievably powerful... you can completely change your health status with the right intervention and it doesn't always require Medical Doctors and medication. Although it may sound appealing and easier to get some pills from the doctor and just hope that it all gets better. Again, the human body wants to feel good so know that your body is on your side!! But you have to give it TLC and help it so it can help you!
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate! I am so fascinated and always love hearing more about different situations! Drop a comment or message me and I'd be happy to discuss. Also (shameless plug) our Better Fit Training coaches have over ten years of not only training experience, but dedicated and constant research and learning every year. Because we are genuinely fascinated by the human being and in love with helping people to know and understand their own vessel better. We have experience working with just about every condition or consideration and always love the challenge of creating workouts and programs for what each individual NEEDS and wants.
I hope you have a fantastic week. I hope you have great stress-coping strategies, and if you don't I hope you honestly look at your stress levels, if not for you, for your loved ones. I hope you find relaxation during every day. I hope you experience moments of butterflies or Eustress this week. I hope you take time for you, because you deserve it. Go get it #fitfam !
We're always here if you need anything.
<3 Coach Kwo, and the entire Better Fit Training Team
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