If you have been suffering from headaches, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue, depleted sex drive, sleep issues and of course digestive problems, then it is very likely down to stress. It’s your body’s way of telling you to take notice and do something about it.

It can impact your mood by causing anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation and focus, overwhelm, irritability, sadness and depression.

It also has an effect on your behaviour by eating either too much or too little, drinking too much alcohol, smoking or drug use, causing outbursts of anger, social withdrawal and exercising less.

All these things are very significant to your health so have a think for a moment about the way stress affects you. Are you aware of the impact has on your body? Listen to how you respond so that you become aware, then you will be able to learn simple ways to bring your body and mind back into balance. Awareness is key.

Stress and sugar

Of course, the impact stress has on sugar levels is really important – stress doesn’t cause diabetes but it can affect your blood sugar levels and how you look after yourself in relation to its development. If you’re feeling stressed, your body releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, cortisol provides the body with glucose by tapping into protein stores which should give you an energy boost for a ‘fight or flight’ response. Over long periods of time, elevated cortisol levels consistently produce glucose, leading to increased blood sugar levels.

What happens with stress?

Designed for you to run away from danger your body produces sugar to give you energy. If you run away you use up that sugar. If you have an argument, miss a train or get anxious about a meeting, the sugar stays in your bloodstream.

Each time you get stressed, which for many people is ALL the time, you produce sugar. This is bad news for diabetics and anyone with issues managing sugar, it’s just like you having a sugary snack.

So how do you stop this from happening?

You eat good food that keeps your blood sugar stable. That’s basically protein, fibre and vegetables as well as healthy fats. Even for breakfast, actually, especially for breakfast. The more you eat good food, the less you want sugar.

You eat every 3½ to 4 hours to stop your blood sugar dropping and just drink water in between. Even that cappuccino between breakfast and lunch can play havoc with your blood sugar. SO if you want one then have it with a meal.

Stress and circulation

Stress causes your blood vessels to constrict, which means it leads to a rise in your blood pressure. You can reduce the impact of this by using breathing techniques, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep.

Stress and digestion

When stress activates the fight-or-flight response in your central nervous system it can affect your digestive system by:

  • Causing your oesophagus to go into spasm and making it harder to swallow
  • Increasing the acid in your stomach, potentially giving you acid reflux or indigestion
  • Making you feel a bit sick
  • Giving you diarrhoea or even constipation
  • Changing the chemicals in your brain which will affect your mood
  • Altering the supply of blood and oxygen to the gut causing inflammation and imbalance of gut bacteria.

Make sure you always sit down to eat. Taking a few deep breaths before you start eating is a great way to reduce the negative impact on your digestion. Have a glass of water before your meal to balance the acid and support the enzymes for digestion.

Make stress your friend – WHY?

Because studies show that if you believe stress is harmful you are more likely to die because of it! Changing how you think about stress can change the way the body responds.

Normally you interpret the physical changes as signs of anxiety indicating that you are not coping well with pressure.

What if you viewed them in a different way?

What if you were to rethink your stress response as helpful, the pounding heart preparing you for action, the faster breathing getting more oxygen to your brain.

Learning to view the response as helpful for your performance caused the body to respond differently. In a typical stress response, your blood vessels constrict, when you view the changes as helpful your blood vessels stay relaxed! How amazing is that?

We all know that there are plenty of things in our lives that can make us stressed. Have you ever thought that some people seem more “stressy” than others? Some people seem to be in a hyper-alert state, and their response to stress appears to be heightened.

This is usually because they have been exposed to a lot of stress or a big stressor that has changed the way they respond.

What we have talked about before, and many people don’t realise, is that we can work to calm this response down and retrain our body and our brain not to overreact to scenarios that we find stressful.

In order to do this we have to reset the nervous system and stimulate our vagus nerve. A stressful situation can trigger a cascade of stress hormones that produce well-orchestrated physiological changes. A stressful incident can make the heart pound and the breathing quicken. Muscles tense and beads of sweat appear. Long-term exposure to this without a reset is damaging to our health.

The important thing to know about stress, whatever impact it is having on your body, is that you are able to do something about it. It can take a little while but it’s truly worth it because to be honest stress is the root of most illness and dis-ease.

If you can learn to stimulate the vagus nerve, and calm your nervous system on a regular basis, you can down-regulate our response to stress and bring it back to what it was designed for, real danger!

So here are a few ways in which all of us can down-regulate the response and stimulate the vagus nerve so that we are able to live calmer happier lives.

  • Breathwork
  • Nature – Awe/Wonder
  • Pleasure in groups
  • Meditation
  • Sound baths
  • Yoga
  • Energy work
  • Cold water therapy

As always I suggest you start simple, just take one thing and fit it into your daily life. You can start really small, simply take 5 minutes a day.

If you’d like to know more about what would work best for you right now then please get in touch and we can work it out together.