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What is Stress?
When we hear the word stress, most of us think of something negative that causes us to feel overwhelmed, overworked, or exhausted. It can be that, however, stress is not always a bad thing. In medical terms, stress is anything that causes a reaction or adaptation in the body — good or bad. In many instances, stress is a good thing; a normal reaction to changes that occur in our bodies or environments. For example, when a room turns cooler, our skin temperature adjusts to keep us warm. Or when someone starts drifting into our lane on the road, time slows down, giving us that extra second to make a split decision. How our bodies react to these internal or external stimuli is known as the stress response¹. While this mechanism helps keep us alive and safe, it can also be exaggerated and unwarranted, which causes health problems down the road.
Causes of Stress
Americans live stressful lives. We work more hours, take fewer vacations, and are allowed shorter maternity leaves than any other developed country. More than 50% of Americans say they live with moderate stress levels, and 25% say they live with high stress levels¹. You read that right. Not just deal with stress occasionally — live with it! We weren’t made to live in survival mode, but the majority of us are trying to, and we are struggling! The year, 2020, has brought new stressful challenges as well. From a hostile political climate to a global pandemic sweeping through the states. It seems as though a new crisis arises just before we can get another one under control. Our response to these stressors will dictate if our collective health will suffer or flourish.
The Stress Response: A Key to Survival
We call the short-term stress response fight-or-flight, and its purpose dates back to ancestral times. When trying to get away from animals like saber-toothed tigers, it sharpened our senses and helped us make quick decisions for survival. Heart rate and blood pressure spiked, cortisol was released into the bloodstream for energy, and mental focus was heightened. In those times, our continued existence as a species depended on these involuntary reactions.
The Modern Dilemma
Our bodies and minds were not programmed for modern day life, where an Instagram post might make or break us – put us in emotional turmoil or worse. In today’s world, most stressors we encounter are non-life-threatening, and more mental than physical. However, our brains haven’t left ancient survival mode; they can’t tell the difference between a perceived threat (your boss asking you to meet him in his office) and an actual threat (getting robbed at gunpoint). For this reason, we have similar physiological responses in both situations. Our palms sweat, our hearts race, and we get butterflies in our stomachs. When the body repeatedly overreacts to non-threatening situations, it throws off our state of balance, or homeostasis. Although still helpful in some situations, like when our “nerves” help us deliver stellar emergent healthcare services, these responses hurt us in the long term.
Physical Reactions to Stress: A Breakdown²
Muscles and joints
Muscle tension increases
Tension headaches, migraines and chronic joint pain
Heart rate increases, vessels dilate, and blood pressure rises
Inflammation, high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke
Stress hormones are released, giving your body the quick energy it needs to fight or run away. Liver produces more sugar to release into blood.
Type II Diabetes if too much sugar remains in blood and not fully reabsorbed. Excess cortisol can lead to “spare tire” at waist, thyroid problems, and mental fog.
Stomach and intestines
Digestion slows, causing “butterflies” in stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, and decreased appetite
Chronic abdominal pain, acid reflux
Breathing becomes harder and faster, sometimes causing hyperventilation
Lowered oxygen saturation in blood
When Does Stress Become Chronic?
Long-term stress, or chronic stress, refers to when the body doesn’t turn off its fight-or-flight response for a prolonged period. When our homeostasis is thrown off for so long, the different body systems can’t function properly. The autonomic nervous system, which regulates involuntary body functions like heart rate and digestion, is our body’s control center for keeping the ebb and flow of the stress response steady. The system consists of two parts: the sympathetic nervous system (fight-or-flight) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). When we stay in a state of survival mode and never enter the “rest and digest” mode, we have no time to recover from all the heightened responses. For instance, when you work several shifts and are also on-call during that week, then you have to go back the following week to repeat the same schedule, your brain and body get no time to recharge and recover. Even if you were on-call and you don’t get called in, your body is still in a hyper-vigilant mode waiting for “the call.” Over time, this leads to decreased immune response, poor digestion, diminished reproductive function, and much more.
Dangers of Chronic Stress
Chronic stress leads to an array of physical, mental, and emotional health issues. The excess release of cortisol into the bloodstream, for instance, can cause diabetes and the “spare tire” we’ve all seen at the waistline. The body begins to react to stress with inflammation, which causes tissue breakdown and poor immune response³. Chronic stress can even change the makeup of your brain permanently, making it difficult to learn and focus⁴. With so many physiological changes that happen, emotional health can suffer too. Without proper treatment, stress can cause mood disorders and lead to a change in outlook on life. When chronic stress begins to wreak havoc on our bodies, it affects all aspects of our health.
Chronic Stress Health Risks
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Brain atrophy⁴
- Difficulty learning
- Memory deficits
- Sleep disorders
- Mood disorders
How Did We Get Here?
Why does this happen? How do people allow themselves to go down such a dangerous path without intervening? When in a state of chronic stress, we tend to go through the motions, trying just to stay afloat. When our sympathetic nervous systems are always active, our bodies never receive a signal to get back to normal. After a while, we start living in a state of heightened senses and responses. This leads to inappropriate and ineffective responses to normal stressors, such as getting headaches or feeling agitated. It’s not a healthy way to live. We have to listen to our bodies and take control of our health early on before chronic stress turns into chronic disease.
How Premium Super Green Can Help
Luckily, we can fight the battle of chronic stress and get our health back using simple nutrition. According to the Stress Management Journal, a diet rich in superfoods can “counterbalance the impact of stress by strengthening the immune system, stabilizing moods, and reducing blood pressure⁵.” Premium Super Green offers a clinically researched combination of nutritious ingredients that is easy, convenient, and healthy. Use one scoop per day to enhance mental clarity, fight fatigue, and promote healthy levels of inflammation. Chronic stress doesn’t have to rule your life and dictate your health. Take control today with Premium Super Green.
1. Poljšak B, Milisav I. Clinical implications of cellular stress responses. Bosn J Basic Med Sci. 2012;12(2):122-126. doi:10.17305/bjbms.2012.2510.
2. Thompson RS, Strong PV, Fleshner M. Physiological consequences of repeated exposures to conditioned fear. Behav Sci (Basel). 2012;2(2):57-78. Published 2012 May 18. doi:10.3390/bs2020057.
3. Glaser, R., Kiecolt-Glaser, J. Stress damages immune system and health. Discovery Medicine. 2005;26: 165-169. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/ed66/100f4233fed03b78bdababbec814938d1a1c.pdf. Accessed September 7, 2020.
4. Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, Johnston TP, Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI J. 2017; 16:1057-1072. doi:10.17179/excli2017-480.
5. Wongvibulsin, S. Eat Right, Drink Well, Stress Less: Stress-Reducing Foods, Herbal Supplements, and Teas. Explore Integrative Medicine. 2014. https://exploreim.ucla.edu/nutrition/eat-right-drink-well-stress-less-stress-reducing-foods-herbal-supplements-and-teas/#:~:text=Proper%20diet%20can%20counterbalance%20the,moods%2C%20and%20reducing%20blood%20pressure.&text=Vitamin%20C%3A%20C.onsuming%20foods%20high,and%20boost%20the%20immune%20system. Accessed August 30, 2020.