Stress has been getting more and more attention lately, as we begin to have a pretty global recognition that it has some pretty nasty and far reaching effects on our health.
We all have two parts of our brain and the stress response is controlled by the part referred to as the Reptilian Brain. This is the oldest part of the brain and the part that is responsible for survival. This is good when you are escaping a life threatening situation or pulling a car off of a child! It’s not so good when the stress response is in high alert mode. You see, the Reptilian Brain can’t differentiate between job stress, an argument with your teenager, the feeling you get when you’re late and stuck in traffic, or a real threat. It simply sends the signal to release the flow of the hormone cortisol and turn you into a supercharged maniac.
Cortisol is a powerful stress hormone!
It governs hunger cravings, digestion, blood pressure, sleep/wake cycles, physical exertion, and blood sugar. It sends a signal to the liver to release stored glycogen into the bloodstream in order to power you to run away. But instead, you are still sitting in that traffic jam. This creates a spike in blood sugar. This causes the pancreas to shoot out insulin to clear it out and in large quantities since you had a huge release. Follow that up with a pretty hard crash and now you are craving chocolate and sweets again. In short, the constant barrage of stressors from phone notifications to inflammation, illness to loneliness, traffic to bad dietary choices creates an environment that keeps us awash in the Cortisol hormone. Before you know it, you have a spare tire around your belly, messed up sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone, and low grade dissatisfaction with life. But, you can change all of that… one tiny step at a time, of course!
Here are some suggestions for reducing stress in your life…
- Institute the 1 minute rule: Before you transition to anything new (ie: from work to your car or your car into your home) take 60 sec to breathe deeply and process the next step
- Keep your phone on silent or set it so that only 2-3 people can actually “break through.”
- Have a technology curfew. Not only will this help with sleep but it will also help you limit how much exposure you have to the demands of email and the pressures of social media.
- Practice reframing a situation. In a traffic Jam, kids are playing a game, women are chatting on phones, and men are listening to sports radio. So clearly, a traffic jam doesn’t HAVE to be stressful. Rather your view of the traffic jam has created the stress. Try reframing your stressful situation as an opportunity!