Picture this: it's a beautiful morning, the sun is shining, and the birds are chirping. You wake up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day. You have a delicious breakfast, and everything seems to be going smoothly. But suddenly, your phone rings, and it's your boss. Your heart starts to race, and your palms get sweaty. You know that this call is going to be about work, and you're not sure if you're prepared for it. As you listen to your boss's voice, you feel the stress building up inside you. You try to remain calm, but your mind starts to race, and before you know it, you're completely overwhelmed.
If this scenario sounds familiar, then you're not alone. Being occasionally stressed out is a normal part of life, and it can even be beneficial in some cases. However, many people are dealing with much higher levels of stress, which can drain your body and cause anxiety. Stress isn't just mental and emotional; it can also be physical and environmental. Chronic stress can keep you in a vicious cycle and harm your health in a variety of ways.
Stress is a natural response to a perceived threat, but our modern lifestyle has brought about a new kind of stress that our bodies aren't equipped to handle. From traffic jams to work deadlines, our daily lives are full of stressors that can trigger our fight or flight response, leading to increased heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels. When this stress response is activated too frequently or for too long, it can take a toll on our bodies and minds.
What is Chronic Stress?
Chronic stress is a prolonged and ongoing feeling of stress that can last for weeks, months, or even years. If left untreated, chronic stress can have a negative impact on your health. It happens when the body is exposed to stressors frequently enough or intensely enough that the autonomic nervous system does not have a good chance to regularly activate the relaxation response. This implies that the body is continuously aroused physiologically.
Long-term stress causes the HPA axis to become chronically activated, which throws off the rhythms of the hormones cortisol, DHEA, melatonin, and epinephrine. Nearly every organ, including the thyroid, gut, brain, and male and female reproductive systems, can be affected, resulting in a wide range of symptoms, including mental health problems like anxiety.
Symptoms of Chronic Stress
Each person's body is unique, and the warning signs of stress can appear in numerous different areas. If you're experiencing any of the following symptoms, it may be an indication that you're dealing with chronic stress:
- Unable to fall asleep
- Nausea or stomach pain
- Frequent headaches
- Falling hair
- Frequent infections or illnesses
- Erratic periods
If two or more of these symptoms apply to you, it's likely that you're dealing with chronic stress. While stress is a natural response to certain situations, chronic stress can have serious long-term health consequences. If left untreated for an extended period of time, chronic stress can lead to autoimmune diseases, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses.
Treatment for Chronic Stress
Chronic stress, in particular, can be devastating to our health and well-being, affecting our physical, emotional, and mental health. Fortunately, there are numerous self-help techniques that you can use to manage chronic stress and reclaim control over your health.
- Breathwork is one of the simplest and most effective tools that you can use to manage stress. Taking slow, deep breaths throughout the day helps to reduce your body's cortisol response and bring you back to the present moment. Best of all, you can practice breathwork anywhere, at any time, for free!
- Sleep is also a crucial aspect of managing chronic stress. Establishing a bedtime routine that promotes restful sleep can significantly reduce your stress levels. Some useful techniques include using a weighted blanket and turning off electronics a few hours before bed.
- Developing stress resilience through regular exercise, meditation, and journaling has also been shown to increase stress resistance. These practices can help you to better manage your stress levels and build up your emotional and mental resilience.
- CBD is a popular and effective supplement for reducing stress and anxiety levels, and improving sleep quality. It is important to note that most blends do not contain psychoactive THC, so you do not need to worry about feeling "high" or having your awareness altered.
If you have tried these self-help techniques and feel that you need more help, undergoing proper treatment may be the best course of action. Functional medicine recognizes that chronic stress is caused by a variety of factors, including lifestyle factors like poor food choices and food sensitivities, systemic imbalances like those of the gut and hormones, and unresolved traumas. Functional medicine practitioners use appropriate tests to identify these imbalances and develop a personalized healing plan that includes crucial lifestyle adjustments required to break the cycle of chronic stress.
At ProFit, our functional medicine approach combines cutting-edge science with personalized care to help you overcome chronic stress and regain control over your health. Don't hesitate to schedule an appointment with us today and start your journey towards a stress-free life!