The Science of Stress
Updated: Oct 22, 2020
The Science Of Stress
With everything that transpired for me recently, I had to make some major lifestyle changes. Being a patient yourself makes you the best educated when you experience things first hand. It also makes you a better coach! At first, I didn’t even know where to being. Being that I have a very all or nothing personality, I decided to dive head first into balancing my hormones. The biggest impact for me that I needed to work on was lowering ALL of my external stress levels. So for this post I want to touch on STRESS!So…What is stress..?
““Stress is defined as a state of real or perceived threat to homeostasis that may challenge an organisms well-being.“”
Here is the special part about stress. Whether you have an overload of stress because you got 4 hours of sleep last night, ate something that upset your stomach, or you killed yourself in your AM workout, or you're nervous about a presentation you have to give at work —YOUR BODY DOES NOT KNOW THE DIFFERENCE! Your body cannot differentiate stressors, your body merely recognizes that it’s in a “state of fight or flight” and it responds by releasing chemicals that impact your physiology. For example, cortisol.Soooo what is cortisol you ask!Cortisol is your stress hormone! Your (CAR) or cortisol Awakening Response is your morning release of cortisol. It’s normal to have an increase of this stress hormone 30-60 minutes after waking up. Why do we have this?! There’s lots of positives to this hormone! The release of morning cortisol helps lower inflammation & it gets your booty up and moving in the AM! Millions of years ago, Homo Sapiens relied on cortisol to alert them when they first saw that a tiger began hunting them. 🐯 Which is why it’s known as the “fight or flight” hormone. We still need this hormone to alert us when we’re in danger and that’s the reason we produce it. The problem begins when we start to release cortisol irregularly because the body & brain is in a constant mode of high stress.So how do you know if you’re releasing too much cortisol?...Or not enough cortisol? You TEST it! Metrics are important. That’s why we do bloodwork as humans, to monitor our health! But even bloodwork doesn’t always catch everything. For example, bloodwork levels for cortisol have the patient test in the AM and fasted. That’s great, since we know cortisol should rise in the morning. However, if you think of bloodwork as taking a snapshot of a moving image, you only see what happened in that exact moment. But what about before and after that picture was taken? What about a few hours later in the day? Or what about the middle of the night? One specific reason that I love the DUTCH test is because it shows you the specifics of your cortisol as well as your inactive form of cortisol, which is called cortisone. The DUTCH test goes super in depth by checking your hormone levels using urine and saliva at all different times throughout the day and even overnight (for those of us who have issues waking up at 2 am! #me) This is more specific than blood work because it tracks your entire day instead of that one snapshot that you can get from blood work. Testing your hormone levels gives you a starting point! It’s a great thing to find out the details of what’s actually going on- it’s so validating! The picture below is an actual DUTCH test example so you can see exactly how specific DUTCH maps it out for the patient. For more info on this go to https://dutchtest.com/ (not sponsored, FYI... just a fan!)
Sooo, tell me what is negative about releasing too much cortisol hormone? It all starts in the brain! When your body is constantly releasing this hormone, it can block the release of other hormones. A lot of complex chemical reactions happen but the main part to know is that when one hormone is off kilter, usually there are others involved. So if you’re struggling with thyroid problems, excess belly fat, PMS, irregular cycles..etc, think deeper & make sure to TEST so you can get to the bottom of it!
Once you know something is off, then you can work to make life changes and fix the root issue. So for me specifically, I made lifestyle changes. I began acupuncture, started meditating and I lowered my intense exercising. My Olympic Weightlifting was a massive external stress factor, so by changing my lifting style and adding more rest days, my body and brain began to slowly realize that I am in a safer zone now and it doesn’t need to release cortisol all the time. This isn’t a quick fix though, it takes time. Everyone is different and so everyone’s healing process is unique. The one thing I have realized is that healing cannot be forced or controlled (much to my control-freak dismay!). It must occur organically for it to work long term! The more I learn about this, the more I see how I was living life in a state of high stress. From driving around in NYC, to employing myself, to training for weightlifting, to sleeping (or lack of sleeping), I was stressssseed out! Now after some lifestyle changes...I feel better. I take deeper breaths in my day. I process life a tad slower. I unplug from my phone more often and enjoy moments with people around me. I don’t let the little things get to me...as much. These overall life changes are transforming me into a better human- the best part is, that it’s all a work in progress & it can only get better! 😊
If you have any questions or want more information, contact me through my site! Next post will be a part II to this, it will be a deeper dive on how to manage stress levels so you too can be better at handling your stress! 😌🌅