Every stress response is a blood sugar response.
When there is stress, there is a demand for increased energy to deal with it. That’s why you have adrenal glands. They secrete cortisol, a stress hormone that increases glucose (sugar) levels in your blood. You need that glucose to provide fuel for the crisis.
But if stress is constant and chronic, the high cortisol output and the resulting high blood sugars are very damaging in at least 8 different ways:
- You crave refined carbs. To supply fuel for the constant triggers, you look for a quick way to get sugar into your bloodstream. The need for instant energy displaces the need for nutrient-dense whole foods, and your literally starve your body of minerals while eating excessive calories.
- You develop insulin resistance. Since every stress response is a glucose response, it is also an insulin response! (Insulin is the escort that shuttles glucose into the cells, where it is converted into energy). Just as an over-taxed mom tunes out the noise of her boisterous youngsters to protect her sanity, the cells stop listening to insulin after a continuous barrage. Even on a low-carb diet, you can become insulin-resistant, just from stress, and that means fatigue! If the cells are not receiving fuel, you are running on fumes!
- Your blood pressure rises because cortisol has a constricting effect on blood vessels.
- You get sick. Your ability to fight fight bacteria, viruses, parasites, and even cancer is hand-cuffed by this hyper-cortisol output. Immune functions operate in “rest-and-digest” but are shut down by “fight-or-flight.”
- Toxins build up. Detoxification isn’t a drink you consume; it’s a cellular process that occurs 24/7. Your cells are continuously exposed to both internal and external waste. But cortisol inhibits “housekeeping” because the demand to manage the crisis trumps the need to sweep up the trash. We do most of our detoxification at rest.
- You have trouble sleeping. Cortisol slows the pineal gland’s production of melatonin. You must have melatonin to drop into a sleep state.
- Your digestion turns sour. Stomach acid production, bile flow, enzyme production, and peristalsis are all slowed, to save energy to handle the stress. Next thing you know, you have heartburn, bloat, constipation, irritable bowels, candida overgrowth, or some other issue related to poor gut health.
- Your adrenals give out. In spite of a need for cortisol, you just can’t keep producing it, much the way an ocean or forest is damaged when it is over-harvested. So you feel constantly depleted, with even the smallest trigger tipping you over the edge in an inability to cope. You become edgy and anxious.
You can reverse the effects of chronic stress in two-minute increments throughout your day. Build pauses into your life to take yourself out of “fight-or-flight” when you wake up, when you eat, when you drive, when you get ready to sleep, when you have been sitting at your desk for more than an hour, and when you finish an interaction with a spouse, a child, a boss, or a co-worker. Use this time to get out of your head and re-connect with your body and your surroundings. Here are some actions you can take during those pauses:
- Breathe deeply and exhale slowly. Stress makes you take shallow, quick breaths.
- Express love and appreciation. When you connect with others, you bring yourself back to a para-sympathetic (regenerative) state.
- Notice the little things. Stress is deadline-conscious, task-focused, tunnel-visioned. It’s about doing, not being. When you stop to feel the sunshine on your cheek or spot a spider on a blade of grass, you are breaking free of the constricting influence of stress.
- Create a sensation. Literally, make room to feel something – a ball of clay in your hand, sand in your toes, shade across your face, cushioning under your seat, or wind caressing your skin. Stress is future focused. Sensations are in the moment.
- Stretch. Stress tenses the muscles. Deliberately and systematically loosen up different areas: your calves and hips, your shoulders and jaw, your back and neck.
If you are in the Pocatello area and would like to learn 25 instant, effective stress hacks, consider attending this class.