Most of us have been told that stress is ‘bad’ for your body, but it’s important to understand that some stress can actually be beneficial to your body’s function.
Your body, the intelligent system it is; has already employed a specialised manager for stress named Cortisol.
The stress hormone
When your body is stressed it produces a hormone called Cortisol.
Cortisol sometimes gets a bad rap, because some of the pitfalls of having too much of it include low immunity, high blood sugar, fatty deposits in your head, neck and belly, and reduced libido.
Yet, Cortisol is employed by your biology to help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, and assist with memory formulation. It has a controlling effect on salt and water balance and helps control blood pressure. So you see, all of these functions make cortisol a crucial hormone to protect overall health and well-being.
Stress is a normal reaction to situations that need a little more attention from your biology. Think of stress like the light that goes on over the check out in Coles when the worker needs assistance. Stress is your body’s way of flicking on the light for Cortisol (the specialist manager) to get into action with your physiology to keep things balanced and ready to go.
Sometimes, this type of stress can even be useful to your body, to help learn how to regulate and adapt to new situations, which in turn helps to make you and your immune system stronger, and more resilient to the everyday changes of life.
The difference between an helpful, hormetic stress, and other chronic stress is that you will bounce back from the hormetic stress better than before.
Permanent Stress Switch
Remember the stress light above the checkout? That light is not supposed to be on all the time right? It’s there to alert (in this case) your body that something needs attention for a short time, and after the phase of added focus, will be switched off so you can get on with your day (and so Cortisol can get on with other management tasks).
Unfortunately, in our society, people are spending a lot of time with those lights on, and Cortisol is running endlessly from one task to another, instead of efficient focus on the work at hand. It’s hard to switch off when there’s always another light being turned on.
A quick stress test
You can’t find your keys and there’s five minutes until you have to leave to go to work. Do you :
- take a few breaths and keep searching, or
- search under two different piles of paper, decide you’ll never be able to get to work, or drive anywhere again, tell yourself you’re stupid and the worst driver of cars in the history of driving, throw things, slam doors….
If you chose option 1, congratulations, your stress manager appears to be working well. Give her a raise!
If you chose option 2, your stress management system might be overworked and may even need some further, on the job training to develop more resilience.
Capital-B Stress vs little “s” stress
If option 2 sounds familiar, it’s possible that your stress management system has forgotten (or not been taught) how to manage stress in an efficient manner. Learning the difference between Capital-B Big stress and stress with a little “s” could be all it will takes to switch off some check-out lights for good.
It’s normal to feel stressed if your keys are not around. In the scheme of things though, it’s a small stress. When lost keys ruin your week, and activate an ongoing cycle of B-Big Stress, it’s time to call in the big boss who can override an unbalanced system.
Your Big Boss for Stress
Here are some quick tools to control your stress when the capital B keeps switching your lights on :
- Breathe on purpose : The exhalation on a long breath helps downregulate cortisol and autonomic nervous system, (which controls heart rate, digestion, and many other parts of your physiology).
- Get Outside : changing environment can change your mood, and being in green spaces also contributes to down regulation and encourages your immune system to get stronger.
- Do something that makes you happy : make a choice to replace stressed thoughts with happy thoughts. Make a playlist for emergency happiness and listen to it when you need to switch gears.
- Just use Candles at night time : cortisol is activated in your body by blue-spectrum light which is in natural light during the day. Unfortunately, blue light is also unnaturally present in artificial lights, so if you’ve got bulbs on at night time, you are flooding your physiology with confusing signals. If stress is already a problem, you do not want to do things that encourage Cortisol to peak at the time of the day when it’s not usually there. Switch to candles and turn off screens at night to regulate your cortisol to the times of the day your evolution understands.
If all else fails, book a session with Hollie to work more specifically with your relationship to B-Big Stress and normal stress.
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The article Big Stress vs lil stress was published by Hollie, for Braidwood Holistic Therapies.
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