Modern stress is very different to the innate stress mechanism that worked well for us back in the Paleothic times. This mechanism is known as the fight or flight response that was activated when there was a threat that may cause possible danger (eg. A bear), and the individual would either fight or run away.
However, prolonged everyday stress which I call ‘modern stress’ is often long term and can be dangerous to ones wellbeing, as the cortisol released due to this stress is not a short term thing as it was in the Paleothic times. Individuals nowadays constantly have unnecessary adrenaline and cortisol pumping around their bodies for prolonged periods of time which can result in lifestyle diseases, weight gain, lowered immune system and chronic fatigue.
This ‘modern stress’ can be caused by several factors such as; living a relentlessly busy lifestyle, eating high sugar foods, energy drinks and too much caffeine, and exercising far too long most days. Shorter bursts of high intensity exercise do wonders for the body, not to mention saving time and creating more time to do the things you love, resulting in a happier, less stressed you!
Why does it make you fat?
The release of cortisol can make you crave sugar which will most likely not get used up and be stored as fat. You crave the sugar because your body thinks it requires the next sugar hit to keep going! Cortisol is also related to increased abdominal fat, especially in women. Moreover, not only does stress add that unwanted tyre around your belly, highly stressed individuals are more prone to illness. Have you noticed that when you’re stressed out you become chronically tired, run down and easily catch a cold? That is because stress weakens the immune system, making you vulnerable to all kinds of illness. For example, when I am on placement for university, I always get a common cold. Over the last two years, this occurred the first three times I went on a 3-week placement, and I began noticing the pattern.
What is Cortisol?
It is the stress hormone released when we are frightened or worried, preparing our bodies for the innate ‘fight or flight’ response). Cortisol is actually healthy for us as it provides us with quick bursts of energy for survival, heightens our memory and our pain threshold. However, prolonged levels of Cortisol in the bloodstream can be dangerous, as discussed throughout the column.
Ways I love to add stress busting and self love in to my day
· Curl up and read a good book
· Walk with friends down the river
· Soak up some sunlight in my egg chair
· Take an epsom salt bath
· Meditate (sit quietly and focus on your breathing)
· Take one of my sisters yoga classes
· Have a cup of spiced dandelion tea with almond milk
· Lie with my legs up the wall to re-set my adrenals
· Cultivate a positive attitude to deal with life’s events with ease.
YOU deserve this time out. I say, minimum 20 minutes a day.
If you think you don’t have 20 minutes to spare, imagine how much more productive you will be in everyday life by investing this time into yourself.
You may find that you can give more to others throughout the day, feel more energetic and ready to face the day ahead.
In this ‘you’ time, focus on only the present, as most of the stress responses are a result of focusing too much on the future.