Your Body on STRESS
One of the most enlightening components of being a human in 2022 is remembering that there is a HUGE disconnect between our DNA and our CULTURAL NORMS. I love hustling, I have pulled my fair share of all nighters, wearing my high stress like a badge of honor on my sleeve. But there is a cost to living outside of your body’s natural rhythms. Our bodies are adept at responding to ACUTE (short term and resolvable) stress. Cortisol (our stress hormone) is not the devil, it is an essential component of being a thriving adult. It is living in CHRONIC high stress that throws our body out of sync. This is a signal, your body shouting at you saying “HEY! We can’t keep this pace!”
When you are experiencing high stress or inflammation, this becomes the priority of your immune system. Your body's job becomes putting out fires, so long term healing takes a back seat. In other words, a stressed body will struggle to heal.
What are these stressors?
External Stressors (Emotional, Relational, Vocational, etc..)
Low quantity or quality of sleep
An unsustainable pace of life
These are just to name a few, for starters! As you can tell, some stressors are internal, and some are external. Regardless, your body doesn't sift through positive and negative stressors like our brains do, your body looks at stress LOAD. So even if you have a ton of stressors that you are excited about, if there are too many of them, your body will feel it.
What's happening in the body when we are stressed?
Studies show that chronic stress leads to a decreased size of your Prefrontal Cortex. This is where we control memory, emotional regulation, behavioral modification, and stored thought. Ever wonder why you are more likely to snap when you are stressed? Why you feel like you can't hold space for others as well? You literally have less capacity, because stress is driving the ship.
According to the Researchers at Yales Department at Neuroscience, "Chronic exposure to uncontrollable stress causes loss of spines and dendrites in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), a recently evolved brain region that provides top-down regulation of thought, action, and emotion."1
2. One of the biggest ways stress interferes with what I do is DIGESTION. When stress levels increase, it takes energy from non essential functions. You know what don’t fall into those categories? Your reproductive and digestive system, the two quickest systems in your body to fall to the back burner when you are under eating or over stressed.
This means we will experience more bloating, constipation, food sensitivities, leaky gut, and more.
THIS IS WHY I WORK WITH HORMONAL AND GUT HEALTH! Because they are the first systems to become imbalanced and dysregulated in our modern, fast paced culture.
3. When you are stressed, you can tell this via a saliva test. Why? Because that lets you measure the levels of cortisol being secreted by your adrenals. Cortisol is your stress hormone, produced by the Adrenal Glands that are also responsible for secreting sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and DHA. When your adrenals become overactive and produce more cortisol, this means you are producing LESS of your sex hormones. Ever notice any differences in your period when you are stressed? Maybe it comes in HEAVY twice in a month or not at all? This is why.
There are so many ways (that I use often and teach clients) to manage and support our stress, but here’s a more counter cultural option:
Redefine success. Redefine pace. Redefine contentment, purpose, productivity.
Maybe it's time to challenge some of the values that our society holds that are making us sicker, more depressed, and more out of touch with our bodies. We teach all of this in the KYPO Functional Nutrition Course, especially diving into Gut Health, Hormonal Health, and Food Freedom intentional Groups launching April 11! Need support? Join today!
(and much more on this in the 'Perversion of Community: Hustle Culture’ chapter of my new book! COMING SOON!)
1. Woo E, Sansing LH, Arnsten AFT, Datta D. Chronic Stress Weakens Connectivity in the Prefrontal Cortex: Architectural and Molecular Changes. Chronic Stress. January 2021. doi:10.1177/24705470211029254