HOW STRESSED ARE YOU?
Fight or Flight – our sympathetic nervous system – is often dialed up to its maximum.
Our bodies are incredible bio-computers. Equipped with a unique nervous system that allows us to respond to high-stress situations with speed, clarity and efficiency. Our sympathetic nervous system exists for those moments when we really need to move fast. Say, a bear is attacking you – which happens all the time, right? Or, you need to swerve swiftly away from a wayward driver. All those moments are stressful, but it’s the stress that saves us. Imagine you are in that car, chilled out, without a care in the world, when that wayward driver in a big hunk of metal comes at you with lightning speed. Being blissed out is all well and good except when you need to think quick and react fast. Without our survival instincts we wouldn’t last very long.
So, we need stress. In fact, thank-god for it! That part is obvious. But, could it be that in our current, highly-charged, non-stop lifestyles that perhaps we have a little too much of it?
Scan through your day. Does it look something like this? Wake up after snoozing 3 times, rush to get ready, bolt out the door, check phone/emails whilst doing make-up in the rear-view mirror, navigate angry traffic, sit in traffic, find a park, start work… sheesh! And that’s all before 9am. Just thinking about the rest of your day will most likely leave you feeling a little frazzled.
Meanwhile our poor little adrenal glands (also known as the suprarenal glands) are working overtime trying to regulate the stress response. Our adrenal – the triangle-shaped endocrine glands that sit atop the kidneys – manage stress through the synthesis of corticosteroids and catecholamine, including cortisol and adrenaline.
When the adrenals are over-worked your body will start to signal you to slow down. The problem? Most of us are switched off and unaware of the little, yet urgent, messages our bodies are sending our way. So, overtime, we can move into adrenal fatigue, which is a place we don’t want to visit.
Dizziness, low blood sugar, irritable, mood swings, tired but wired feeling, tendency to startle easily, cravings for sugary foods… these are but a few of the symptoms that can be related to adrenal fatigue.
The good news? You can support your adrenals (which are imperative to healthy immune function) through a few simple lifestyle changes:
- Rest! Get some sleep and climb into bed before 10pm.
- Cut out sugar and processed carbs – meaning junk!
- Go for wholefoods – good quality animal protein foods, organic vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, beans and grains.
- Ease back on coffee and increase your intake of fresh, filtered water.
- Enjoy more quiet time – meditate, move, practice yoga, journal
- Say no… don’t do everything because you think you should, do a few things because you want to
It’s not complicated but it takes a little attention. Instead of placing so much focus on your to-do list place the same focus onto yourself, your wellbeing. Can you identify areas that need a little reassessment?
I know I do. Writing this has left me objectively looking at my own stress levels and what I need to do to find a little more balance.
Signing off with an exhale.
Pause. Listen. Live
*This was originally written for and published on Yahoo!7 last week.