Do you wake up full of energy, ready to tackle everything on your to-do list? But by late afternoon, it’s clear that there are too many items, and not enough time. Our jam-packed busy lives make stress commonplace.
When this happens day after day, it leads to chronic stress. The stress hormones built to help our ancestors escape from lions and handle life-or-death situations wear on our bodies, influencing our weight, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, energy and immunity.
If you have two or more of the following symptoms your everyday stress has become chronic:
1. You’re sleeping poorly. You may struggle to fall, or stay, asleep, or find you wake up still feeling unrested.
2. Energetic late at night. Just when it’s time to drift off, your cortisol hormone gets elevated, causing high energy. Your hormonal timing is totally off!
3. Your digestion is out of whack. You may have constipation, diarrhea, reflux, nausea, dry mouth or other GI symptoms.
4. You’re really moody. Long-term stress can leave you feeling irritable and frustrated.
5. You’re tired all the time. If you feel lethargic, it could be “adrenal fatigue,” from excess hormones over a long period of time.
6. You get sick — a lot. Your immune system takes the back seat to all those fight-or-flight hormones.
7. Food cravings are through the roof. You may find yourself wanting carbs and sugar.
8. Your heart — or thoughts — might race. Or, you may have sweaty palms and feel jittery and shaky.
9. Your sex drive is low. Stress can lead to a low libido for both men and women.
10. You’ve gained weight. The cortisol hormone can lead to weight gain around your mid-section.
Living under chronic stress leads to bad decisions. That’s because the part of the brain called the amygdala is activated when under threat. It is our survival brain with the “fight or flight” response being its signature. This means that blood is flowing to the “reactive” brain and away from the “thinking and planning” part of our brain, the pre-frontal cortex.
This can contribute to poor eating, activity and lifestyle choices. Convenience and processed foods can easily take center stage along with sedentary behaviors and heavier use of drugs and alcohol. This can lead to malnutrition, decreased blood flow and the increased risk and severity of chronic conditions as well as impairing immune function. It is a recipe for dis-ease and higher health risks, particularly in pandemic times.
Chronic stress puts the body into a catabolic state of “breaking down” while also turning down the volume on the body’s anabolic pathways of “building up”. The body was designed to live in the parasympathetic state, also known as “rest, digest, heal and repair” mode. Constantly living in the stress response leads to high levels of cortisol, oxidative stress and pro-inflammatory cytokines (immune messengers). This chemical marinade literally shrinks muscle and brain cells.
Being mindful of breathing, eating and moving are great ways to build stress resilience. Living in the present moment helps develop awareness, connection and calm. Avoid overwhelm by choosing to practice one small step at a time.
Sometimes it’s asking others for more help — for instance, maybe your partner or children can take on additional household tasks. Relaxation techniques, such as meditation and yoga, or even taking some time to breathe, are also a surprisingly powerful way to reduce stress.
Keep an eye out for symptoms of chronic stress. If you’re feeling very stressed, all the time, get in touch with your doctor or health care professional for more help. Dealing with constant stress isn’t always easy. One thing’s for sure: Don’t ignore Chronic Stress or attempt to push past, since it can have such an outsized impact on your overall health and wellness!
Studies have shown massage to be an excellent choice in treating stress. Regular massage can reduce pain, relax your muscles, boost your mood and improve your sleep quality. It is recommended to follow your treatment with plenty of water, a warm bath and a good night’s sleep and you’ll be feeling calmer and more composed in no time.
Body & Soul Massage in Salem Ma offers Therapeutic Massage for Pain Relief. To schedule an appointment call 978-825-0040. Ask about our Monthly Membership program and start your stress reduction path today! Health Savings Plans accepted.