World events has the general public on edge. Stress is running rampant through the population affecting our mental and physical health. Not all stress is a bad thing however, if sustained over too long a period it can start having negative effects on your long-term health. Let’s define stress and go from there.
What is Stress? Stress is a condition that activates a particular biological reaction. When your body perceives a threat or major challenge chemicals and hormones surge throughout your body. A response to stress is termed ‘fight-or-flight’. Your stress triggers this response to ‘fight’ the stressor or to run away from it i.e. ‘flight’. After this response your body will generally relax however constant stress can have a negative effect.
When you face sudden stress, your brain surges your body with chemicals and hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. This gets your heart beating faster and sends blood to your muscles and your important organs. You feel somewhat energized and have heightened awareness. This is a stage in how people adapt to stress. The different stages of stress are known as general adaptation syndrome or GAS. When you understand these different stages and how your body responds it becomes easier to identify the signs of chronic stress in yourself.
The base of your brain reacts when you sense danger. It sends nerve and hormone signals to your adrenal glands, which release a large quantity of hormones. These hormones are nature’s way of preparing you to face danger and increase your chances of survival.
We are all familiar with adrenaline. One of these released hormones is adrenaline. You might also know it as epinephrine, or the fight-or-flight hormone. In rapid fashion, adrenaline works to:
- increase your heartbeat
- faster breathing rate
- contract blood vessels so blood is directed to the muscles
- stimulate sweat
Adrenaline is an important stress hormone, but it isn’t the main one, cortisol is. Cortisol plays an essential role in stressful situations.
- raising the amount of glucose in your bloodstream
- helping the brain use glucose more effectively
- raising the accessibility of substances that help with tissue repair
- restraining functions that are nonessential in a life-threatening situation
- altering immune system response
- dampening the reproductive system and growth process
- affecting parts of the brain that control fear, motivation, and mood
Random Fact: You can perform superhuman feats due to adrenaline.
Keeping your cortisol levels high for too long can have negative affects on your health.
- weight gain
- high blood pressure
- sleep problems
- lack of energy
- type 2 diabetes
- mental cloudiness (brain fog) and memory problems
- a weakened immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to infections
It can also have a negative impact on your mood. You can lower your cortisol levels naturally. For example, certain supplements may also support lower cortisol levels.
- Ashwagandha is an adaptogen herb that is commonly used in traditional medicines to treat anxiety and help people adapt to stress.
Interesting Fact: Heightened cortisol levels can cast a haze over your memory. Making it difficult to recollect important information.
Check Your Blood Pressure
Managing, preventing, and treating high blood pressure can often be an over-looked strategy in managing stress. You may not want to invest in your own blood pressure monitor. Never fear your pharmacy is here! We offer instore blood-pressure monitoring at no charge. The pharmacist or pharmacy assistant will be able to tell you if your blood pressure is within a healthy range.
If you are concerned about your blood pressure levels, you can discuss this with your friendly local pharmacist.
7 Ways to Reduce Stress
- Get enough sleep
- Learn relaxation techniques
- Strengthen your social network
- Hone your time management skills
- Try to resolve stressful situations if you can
- Nurture yourself
- Ask for help