What does stress mean to your body?
I find the concept of ‘stress' is being diluted as the decades pass. Far too often I hear ‘I'm not stressed' or ‘no more stressed than anyone else' with people believing their stress is not important nor needs addressing. Unfortunately, however, the body responds to stress regardless of whether we recognise and acknowledge it.
In a nutshell, the stress response produces hormones to create a ‘pro-stress' response (adrenaline and noreadrenaline) which needs to be balanced with the production of the ‘anti-stress' hormone (cortisol) to stop the response once the ‘stressor' has passed. All 3 hormones work to achieve the short term beneficial response to help you ‘fight or flight' from the stressor, but this response should be followed by periods of calm when the response is not required and it can shut down.
But what happens when the same or another stressor ‘attacks', then another and another? Quite simply ‘what goes up must come down'. The stress response can be over stimulated for only so long then the body has difficulty controlling the process eventually leading to a lowered response. Both the over and under response, and therefore production of these important hormones, will have far reaching implications to the functioning and health of the body and mind.
What counts as a ‘stressor'?
When stress is discussed many think of emotional stress and though this is an important part of the picture it is necessary to understand there are physical processes in the body which are also deemed as stressors and will stimulate the hormonal stress response. Many people are unaware of the symptoms of stress or, worse still, ignore them hoping they will go away. The body always ‘wins' and sometimes in ways not expected.
Stress and Fat Storage
Cortisol and insulin have a very intimate relationship and work together to perpetuate fat storage. As with insulin fat storage, stress fat storage is generally noted in the abdominal area. Both of these hormones may also lead to low muscle mass which is further affecting long term health and wellbeing.
How do you know?
Signs and symptoms are your body communicating there is imbalance and therefore the physical and emotional presentation may provide enough information to tailor a treatment protocol to help you regulate your stress response. It is also possible to have your cortisol levels tested to tell you exactly how your body is responding.
Remember, knowledge is power, enabling you to be in control of your health.