Stress has become normal in today’s society. In fact, we have become so accustomed to living with it that we take it with us on vacation. Do we mistakenly believe that the level of stress in our life equates to how successful we are? Or that there is nothing we can really do about it? Perhaps we believe it really isn’t harming us because everyone is living this way. Maybe it’s time to seek the truth about stress, understanding the causes of it, and it’s impact on our body.
Stress is a natural response to something we find difficult, scary, worrisome, frustrating, or demanding. It is a survival mechanism that is physical in nature. However, it was never intended to be a constant state of being like it seems to be today. The adrenal glands, located on top of each kidney, allow our body to cope with the effects of stress through the release of hormones. One of the most important hormones released is called cortisol, because without this our body is unable to deal with the effects of stress.
You might be asking yourself, “what type of stress can cause problems?” Listed below are some of the more common stressors:
- Chronic conditions such as fatigue, illness, infection, and pain
- Excessive behaviors such as exercise, sugar consumption, and caffeine
- Sleep deprivation
- Late hours
When faced with stressors, the body responses by stimulating the production of cortisol. You may recall the term “fight or flight.” The cortisol provides the energy necessary for the body to deal with the stressors. Over time, the continual release of cortisol exhausts the adrenal glands, yet cortisol is still produced. Our body is designed to help us survive, so this is the one hormonal system that does not shut down, especially during prolonged stress. This is not a good situation for our body and here’s why:
- A consistently high cortisol level creates reduced insulin sensitivity which over time can lead to diabetes.
- A lowered ability to fight infections.
- An increased loss in bone mass which can lead to osteoporosis.
- Increased fat around the waist.
- Increased water and salt retention which can lead to high blood pressure.
- Higher levels of estrogen which is linked to breast cancer and uterine fibroids.
The next blog post will focus on the progression of adrenal fatigue as a result of our chronic stressors.