A study done in 2003 showed that 80% of Americans reported feeling stressed out. Are you one of them? Take a look at what being stressed can do to your body. Chronic stress can alter our biochemical state and have major effects on our health.
Being stressed puts our bodies in the “fight or flight” state which leads to high levels of cortisol and adrenaline. When we are under chronic stress, the secretion of these hormones takes precedence over other functions like digestion, cellular repair, immune function, reproduction and liver function and detoxification. So we end up with poor blood sugar control, sleep disruption, carbohydrate cravings (which worsens the poor blood sugar control), reduced metabolism, reduced thyroid function, alterered sex hormone activity, infertility, depression, alcohol and drug abuse. Your immune system doesn’t work as well to fight off infections. Stress has even been linked to heart disease.
Basically our bodies are in a state of hormonal imbalance and we simply are not able to function like we want to. Not only that, but stress is also known to decrease the brains functionality causing difficulty thinking and solving problems or a loss of memory. And, after a long time of your body pumping out so much cortisol and adrenaline eventually it wears out and chronic fatigue sets in.
So as you can see, stress is not something to just blow off by saying “things will calm down when the kids are back in school” or “as soon as I get this project done at work my stress level will be a lot less.” You are just continuing the cycle and setting yourself up for problems that are becoming more and more common in America- obesity, heart disease, infertility, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, alcohol and drug abuse.
The best time to slow down and relax is when you don’t have time for it!
Stay tuned for some tips on decreasing your stress level.
Brooke Uptagrafft, MD
Dr. Brooke is a family medicine doctor.