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What is Stress?

I was talking to a client in his 60s about his number one priority for managing his health a while ago and it was stress management. Stress shows up in your Biosignature profile as a high reading around your umbilicus or belly button. My client said “But Clare, What is Stress?” Great question!

So in today’s blog I am going to elaborate on what stress is and what you can do about it.

The scientist Hans Seyle was the first person to define stress back in 1936. He defined it as:

“The non- specific response of the body to any demand for change”.

 

Another way of looking at it is the body’s love of a phenomenon called Homeostasis, which simply means keeping things on a nice steady even keel. The body likes consistent temperature ( more or less) , steady hydration, reliable PH in the various regions of the body e.g. blood around 7.4 , balance of electrolytes, rhythmic heart beat and breathing. Anything that tries to upset this balance is a Stress. So if I am running to catch a bus my heart rate goes up, my body temperature may raise, I start to sweat, I breathe more deeply. All natural responses to the stress of having to move more quickly than usual. Sometimes we stress ourselves on purpose e.g. going to the gym and lifting weights. The body adapts to this stress and we get fitter, leaner and stronger if our training and recovery are correct. So some types of stress are actually good for us. This stress has been called eustress (also a term coined by Seyle).

 

The stuff that causes us bother and ill health are multiple sources of stress that the body quite simply cannot keep up with. I.e. it cannot adapt to it and this causes the body to gradually break down.

 

Mental Stress:

We are all familiar with this one. Nagging worries, negative thinking, expecting the worst, playing out a scenario in your mind that was stressful over and over again. This mental stress puts the body into alarm mode or fight or flight mode and you release stress hormones e.g. cortisol and epinephrine. Do this often enough and you become a chronic worrier. What’s the solution? Become aware of your thoughts and zap the negative ones on the spot! Meditation is also highly recommended or any form of mindfulness. My favourite form of mindfulness is training! I am fully present with every rep and focus on the feel of the muscles. That puts me in the zone 99/100!! I call that a yang form of stress relief. I also like Yin forms such as meditation, the soft and gentle way of relieving stress.

Physical Stress:

This would come from heavy manual labour, lifting weights, running a marathon or sitting down all day. Too much exercise that you cannot recover from is as bad as not enough. Sitting down all day long is one of the most stressful things you can do to your body. It will reduce your life expectancy.

 

Emotional stress:

Bottled up unresolved feelings create havoc in your body. Anger, rage, hatred, bitterness, guilt, jealousy and so on create chemical responses in your body that rewire everything. In Chinese medicine for example the liver is the seat of anger. Repressed anger will in time damage this gland. Chinese medicine also states that what ages man is the rate of decline of the internal organs and what causes those internal organs to decline are unresolved trapped emotions. Get in touch with your feelings through journaling, counselling or simply sitting with your feelings like a silent witness. This will dissipate the stress.

 

Chemical stress:

We are living in an increasingly toxic world. Thousands of different chemicals are being pumped out into the environment every day by industry. Your liver has to deal with upwards of 800 chemicals a day! You are toxic! Fact! This is highly stressful to your body so one of the things your body does is pack those toxins away into your fat cells. Reduce your toxic exposure by using fewer chemicals in your day to day living. Natural cleaning agents and personal care items would be a good place to start.

 

Nutritional Stress:

Your body will be stressed every time you are lacking in a key macronutrient (proteins, carbs and fat) or micronutrient (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytochemicals) or water. So people on very low fat diets could be causing a lot of stress to their bodies. Ditto those on calorie restrictive diets. How are you going to get enough nutrients in to deal with the toxic mayhem of our modern world? Good luck with that on a 1200 calorie diet!

The solution here is to eat an individualised nutritional plan that caters to your body’s unique requirements. Swapping nutrient robbing foods for nutrient dense ones and getting tested for deficiencies.

 

Circadian stress:

The earth has a natural rhythm of night and day light and dark over a 24hour period. Mankind has evolved in sync with this rhythm. If we choose to ignore it by going to bed really late for example or doing shift work at night it will stress your system. The solution is to go to bed at a reasonable hour and try to avoid shift work where possible.

 

Now I have not gone through all the sources of stress but those are the main ones. Another thing to be aware of is that stress in one area can generate stress in another area so if your sleep patterns are disturbed don’t be surprised if you are emotionally in a bad place or if your nutrition is not up to par it may disturb your sleep!

So you see folks stress is not that simple. It affects multiple areas of your life. I will leave you with some words of advice from a Zen Master:

 

“Smile, Breath and go slowly”

Thich Nhat Hann.

1 Comment

  1. […] mental worry , to toxicity to relationship issues. I talked in detail about this topic in my blog What is Stress? Anybody wishing to embark on a fat loss plan needs to have a stress reduction program in place […]

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