When our ancestors experienced a stressful situation (i.e. being chased by a bear), their bodies responded in two ways:
- An increase in various hormones and neurotransmitters: The job of these natural chemicals was to physically prepare them for the movement associated with a fight or flight response;
- To run away or to attack: The “physical activity”, that is the actual “running away”, resulted in the chemicals being lowered to their original pre-stress state.
Nowadays, stressful events typically do not put us in any physical harm. While we’ll get the same dose of chemicals our ancestors got, typically we don’t have a corresponding actual physical movement. The end result? Those elevated chemicals remain circulating in our bodies for long periods of time before returning to the original pre-stress state.
Short term stress can be positive but stress beyond a certain point can cause serious damage to your health. When stress persists, our mood, our productivity, our relationships and most importantly our quality of life and general health are affected.
The following is a list of symptoms related to a persistent elevation in various stress hormones such as cortisol.
– Feeling overwhelmed
– Inability to relax
– General unhappiness
– Feeling isolated – Memory concerns
– Difficulty focusing
– Constant worrying
– Racing thoughts
– Difficulty making a decision – Changes in sleep habit
– Changes in eating habit
– Nervous habits (e.g nail biting)
– Relying on vices (e.g. alcohol, cigarettes)
– Wanting to be by yourself – Weight gain or loss
– Muscle and joint pain
– Decreased libido
– Getting sick often
– Heart palpitations
– Bowel changes- diarrhea or constipation
– Feeling dizzy or nauseous
If you experience any of the following symptoms you may be having difficulty with your ability to manage stress. We can’t control all the events, but we can change our perspective, and we can increase the strength and resilience of our bodies.
For a healthy approach to stress management which does not involve simply relying on medication, Naturopathic Medicine might be right for you. Give us a call and in the meantime get moving!! Exercise, just as it did for our ancestors is the simplest ways to regulate our natural chemicals.
Dr. Natasha Vani BSc, MSc, ND
Naturopathic Doctor and Exercise Physiologist