How Stress Can Sabotage Your Success with Good Health

I posted this article on stress when I first launched the Paula’s Healthy Living website. It’s one of my favorites so I wanted to share it with our new readers.

Everyone knows that stress is no fun. At the same time, many of us know that it comes whether you want it to or not! Chronic high stress can cause a myriad of negative health issues.  It increases cortisol levels, it can interrupt your sleep,  it can cause changes in your metabolism, and cause emotional issues.

High levels of stress increases cortisol. “Cortisol is the primary catabolic hormones in the body and is released during long periods of stress, sports or physical …”as quoted from the dictionary. Cortisol has been linked to visceral fat (belly fat), insulin resistance, higher insulin counts, glucose intolerance and coronary heart disease. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/cushingssyndrome.html .

High stress can also cause sleeplessness. A lack of sleep can cause memory issues, slower metabolism, and retention of fat (Annals of Internal Medicine-2010).

Heart rate and blood pressure rise under extreme stress. This can describe that feeling of “fight or flight” that you can feel as a reaction to immediate stress, but if your cortisol levels are chronically high, the body begins to acclimate in a negative way to this constant ‘panic’ state. Christine Horner, M.D., a nationally known surgeon with a special interest and expertise in natural medicine states in The Doctor’s Prescription for Healthy Living, “The problem is every day; non-life threatening events can trigger a full blown stress-response. For most everyday situations, this response isn’t necessary or appropriate.” For those with chronically high stress, she acknowledges that it is no wonder that these people feel chronically tired, fatigued and have high blood pressure and irritability.

Obviously, conditions such as divorce, a loss of a job, death in the family etc. are catalysts for stress.  Smoking, high levels of caffeine, alcohol, lack of exercise, insufficient sleep, and lifestyle habits increase the likelihood of negative health symptoms.  The trouble is that sometimes we just can’t stop the things that cause us stress.  What can we do about it?

I’ve had all of the stresses listed above in the last 5 years, and more! These are some things that worked for me:

Work out! Without my workout, I have no doubt that I would have lost my mind. It seems counter-intuitive but working out won’t make you tired, it energizes you!

Yoga.  A lot of people find peace and retreat with yoga. It focuses on your connection with your body and your breathing. An hour escape can be a welcomed break.

– Eating whole foods. Removing foods that are filled with preservatives, excessive salts, and sugars and hydraginated oils gives you energy and will help with reducing cholesterol, and reduce your risk of diabetes. Keeping your blood glucose levels even during the day by eating 5-6 small meals wards-away exhaustion in the afternoon. Try cutting back on the alcohol and caffeine. They seem like a solution, but they can exacerbate the problems.

– Laugh. Go to a funny movie, watch old videos of your kids, and visit with a trusted friend. Laughter is invaluable to tension reduction.

– Make sure YOU aren’t your own worst enemy! Monitor the “negative-speak” that you are having with yourself. If YOU aren’t going to be kind to you…who else will? So your body doesn’t look like Claudia Schaffer. Mine doesn’t either! Get up in the morning, put on clothes that make you feel confident, look in the mirror and re-assure that person looking back that you are doing the best you can today, and take on the world!!!!

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