Stress. You KNOW it’s terrible for you. You’ve read the articles, you’ve seen the studies – you’ve downloaded the Headspace app that your co-worker told you about.
But what if I told you that there is a difference between what *we* perceive as stress on a conscious level and what our bodies perceive as stress on a physiological level?
😱lack of nutrients
😱negative self talk
😱lack of “restful” activities
😱 internal (i.e. gut issues)
Did you know that all of these are forms of STRESS? (and this is just to name a few!)
Truth is, you might think that your morning Starbucks coffee & Orange Theory class bring you a sense of zen – but if you are living in a state of “chronic stress” – (whether you know it or not) – you could be preventing yourself from looking & more importantly FEELING your absolute best.
“I’m not so stressed” – you think to yourself.
You wake up at 6 am so you can get to the gym by 7 and arrive at work at 8:30. You’re lucky if breakfast is more than a scoop of protein powder and a banana and lunch is usually some salad situation that you typically eat in front of your computer.
Your whole day is crazy, and even though you told your girlfriends you would meet them for a glass of wine after work – all you really want to do is get some froyo, go home and curl up on the couch with an episode of Real Housewives.
In 2017 it seems like if you aren’t “hustling 24/7”, you are doing something wrong.
But what if I told you that our natural state of being is ease, lightness and calm?
Of course stress is a part of being human – but when STRESS becomes our normal state of being (whether we know it or not) – we (quite literally) burn ourselves out and can set ourselves up for things like hormone dysfunction and digestive issues – just to name a few.
You see – we have a part of our nervous system called the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and it has two parts- Parasympathetic System and Sympathetic System.
The Parasympathetic system is our *rest and digest* response.
Our Sympathetic System is our *fight or flight* response.
Think about it like this – back in the caveman days when we were running from predators – our Sympathetic System would kick in. When this happens, our blood sugar increases (to supply our body with energy to escape quickly), adrenaline is released and we store body fat. Also, our digestive and reproductive functions turn off. (your body is smart! in a stressful situation all non-essential functions are shut OFF – after all who needs to be digesting food or reproducing when running for their lives?).
When things are working in harmony – the two systems work beautifully with each other.. we experience stressful situations (sympathetic) and we recover from them nicely and return to a parasympathetic state.
BUT – for many of us – things can get quite out of balance… and when this happens the Sympathetic state takes dominance.
You might be wondering – how does this chronic stress really effect us physically?
When in a continuous Sympathetic state – the body becomes Catabolic (meaning things start breaking down), and there isn’t enough counterbalance of being Anabolic (building up).. this is where we start to see things like hormone imbalances, increase in belly fat, difficulty putting on muscle (because you are always in a catabolic state!)- and the list goes on.
If I had to guess I would say that MOST people (myself included) deal with some sort of sympathetic dominance – but what can we do to overcome it?
It sounds easy – but it takes a heck of a lot of INTENTION and WORK. But – here’s what you can do
First and foremost – ask yourself if you feel wiped out at all during the day? If you feel fantastic and are bursting with energy *most* of the time – then you might be doing just great 🙂 but if not — keep reading and consider the following. If it speaks to you great- if not — toss it ! YOU know yourself best.
1.) Take a hard look at your workout routine – are you working out too much (more than 5 days per week)? (Hint: working out TOO much when you are in a STRESSED state makes you STORE more body fat and unable to build much lean tissue).
2.) Are you sleeping 7-8+ hours STRAIGHT through the night? (if not this can be a sign of blood sugar dys-regulation which is from again from chronic stress). Yep it’s true- and for years I thought I was just a light sleeper and had to pee all the time – it was TOTALLY blood sugar dysregulation brought on by stress.
3.) Are you engaging in RESTORATIVE practices throughout the week? (Walking in nature, reading a book, listening to a funny podcast, putting on a face mask, taking a bath–or anything that brings you JOY)
4.) Are you eating ENOUGH? Have you been in a calorie deficit for a long time?
5.) Are you eating ENOUGH of the RIGHT stuff for YOUR body? (i.e. if dairy makes you feel like shit – are you eating it still?)
6.) Where are your carbs coming from? Do you eat a lot of packaged/processed foods and sugar?
7.) How much coffee are you having per day? If it’s more than one caffeinated coffee – it could be time to cut back.
It’s not that the things listed above are “bad” or harmful on their own – but it’s when things get out of control and compound overtime that we need to be concerned about.
Remember, you’ve got one body – take care of it and it will take care of you.
Personally, I spent way too long chasing vanity and not caring about the amount of stress that I was putting on to my body – and then it all caught up with me.
The beauty is – you can change it – you can start on the path to feeling & looking your best at any moment – just set the intention and really ask your body – what do you need?