During our daily lives we move on autopilot going from one thing to the next. Often we are stressed out, chasing after the kids, running them to their activities, doing homework, cooking and cleaning. As busy moms, we have little time to slow down and enjoy life. I am going to get a little scientific with you as I explain the various reactions our bodies have during a day in our busy stressful lives.
What happens to our bodies during a busy stressful day?
(Yes, here comes the science!)
Our body’s balance is maintained by the autonomic nervous system, which is composed of two sides – the gas pedal (sympathetic) and the brake (parasympathetic). When we are constantly under stress, our bodies constantly activate the gas pedal, which puts our body into a red alert status. When we activate the sympathetic nervous system (known as fight or flight), here is what happens:
- Any energy stored in the body is released to address the alert status
- Muscle tension develops because the major muscles such as the thighs, back and shoulders all contract to fight off the threat. All the blood moves to the hands and feet so we can “fight” or “flight”
- Stress chemicals, adrenaline and cortisol, are released into the blood stream. The adrenaline puts our body on alert and the cortisol helps produce the energy required for alert status by storing fat
- The risk of adrenal fatigue increases because of the constant release of stress chemicals
- Belly fat will increase because of the higher cortisol levels which store fat in the body especially in the belly to protect the major organs
- Cholesterol levels in our blood increase because of the increased cortisol levels
- The immune system is less efficient because the cortisol breaks down white blood cells. The immune system is focused on short-term survival so any long-term surveillance such as identifying cancer cells is no longer a priority
- Increased sympathetic nervous system activity increases your heart rate, blood pressure, metabolic rate, and breathing rate. You start breathing shallow quick breaths from the chest
- The risk of Type 2 diabetes increases because the pancreas secretes glucagon and insulin to control the blood sugar, which is a source of energy for the body. Since the body is using all short-term energy, it throws your blood sugar out of balance
- The risk of thyroid conditions increases because the stress response prevents the thyroid from performing optimally
- The risk of heart disease increases because the blood gets stickier and clogged up with the extra sugar and fat molecules needed for short-term energy to fight of the alert status. The heart and arteries are strongly affected by stress. Stress is considered to be a major component of heart disease
- The reproductive system is compromised because the blood gets diverted from the reproductive organs to the major muscles to fight or flight. This is why it is more difficult to get pregnant when we are stressed
- The digestive system is affected because the blood gets diverted from the abdomen to the major muscles to fight or flight. It is a known fact that most diseases start in the digestive system
As you can see, stress makes all conditions and ailments worse. The stress response shuts down healing and regenerative processes in the body. Healing and regeneration is so important because 98% of the 50 trillion cells in your body are being replaced each year.
What can we do to manage stress in our daily lives?
Be good to our body every day
The good news is there is a way to manage stress and be good to your body every day. When we activate the parasympathetic side of the nervous system, our autonomic nervous system becomes balanced. Increased parasympathetic activity decreases the heart rate, blood pressure, metabolic rate, breathing rate, and muscle tension. When the relaxation response is activated, the chemical acetylcholine is released at higher levels into the bloodstream reducing cholesterol in the blood. It is important to activate the relaxation response because this is when the body can heal and rejuvenate. Here are some suggestions for activating the relaxation side of the nervous system.
- Find a quiet place and sit comfortably breathing slowly and controlled. Inhale for a count of 3 and exhale for a count of 3
- Practice yoga regularly because it balances the body, mind and spirit
- Meditate because it promotes relaxation
- Do vocal toning or singing as this balances the nervous system
- Get a massage as it relaxes the major muscles of the body and calms the mind
- Exercise because it releases endorphins, which make you feel good
- Take a walk in nature as the earth’s energy can heal and rejuvenate the body and mind
- Listen to calming music
- Perform a guided visualization imagining a peaceful setting
- Make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep every night, because your body heals and rejuvenates during this time
- Gain a positive attitude because your mind controls your body
- Become aware of where you focus your thoughts, time and energy. Determine if you have any control over these. If you don’t have any real control then let them go
- Live in the present moment – stop and smell the roses. Use your five senses to really take in all the beautiful things we encounter on a daily basis
- Appreciate all the little things each and every day
Be aware that what you are putting into your body also affects your well being. Eating more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains regularly while eating less processed foods, less white flour, less white sugar, less caffeine and less alcohol will keep your body healthy. In addition, watch out for what you are using on your skin. Remember, the products you put on your skin are in every organ of the body within 26 seconds. It is important to use products that are pure, safe and natural without perfumes, dyes, phthalates, mineral oil, petroleum, animal products and animal by-products. Arbonne has a full-line of botanical based anti-aging skin and body care products as well as gluten free, dairy free and vegan nutrition products. Stress increases the aging process so it is important to reduce stress and use anti-aging products on your skin.
In short, it is very important to be good to your body every day and thank your body for everything it does for you. Make sure you take the time every day to manage your stress and enrich your life.