At some point in our lives, all humans experience stress. It can start as early as elementary school when you’re taking your examinations.
Different people react to stress in different ways. Some are able to cope better than others.
The stress we face on a daily basis is “handled” by the adrenal glands in our bodies producing such hormones as Cortisol. These hormones allow our minds, muscles and energy levels to rise up in order to meet the stressful situation.
In a normal person, everything works as intended and eventually the stress event passes and things are back to normal again.
But in people who suffer from repeated and prolonged stressful situations, their adrenal glands can literally shut down. The adrenals were not meant to produce hormones for an extended period of time due to long periods of stress.
That’s like keeping a race car in the red. You never want to keep a race car in the red because the engine will overheat and it will explode. Your adrenal glands won’t explode, but they will start to slow and eventually shut down.
The reason why stress is so dangerous is because it leads you to do other, unhealthy activities which can further exacerbate your AF condition. For example, when you get stressed you tend to eat junk food, and maybe drink lots of caffeine to cope with the stressful event causing your body to burn more energy that it normally would.
The more caffeine you drink, the more “clogged up” your adrenal glands become and after a while (weeks, months, years) they just shut down.
How Stress Affects the Body
There are 3 general stages the body goes through in a stressful situation:
Stage 1: This is called the “alarm reaction”. Picture a Navy battleship in World War 2. The spotter spots a threat (enemy plane or submarine) and start ringing the alarm bells. It’s the exact same situation in your body. This is called the “fight or flight” response and your body start producing hormones and gets your muscles, heartbeat and blood pressure raised in anticipation of fighting or running away from the event.
Stage 2: This is called the resistance stage. Immediately after your body has responded to a stressful event and the stressor has been removed or reduced, the defenses of the body are much weaker as energy needs to be diverted to fixing damaged tissues. The body is still on high-alert, even after the stress event has ceased or become a non-threat.
Stage 3: This is called the exhaustion phase and it’s when your body loses the ability to combat the thing that’s stressing it out. This directly leads to you burning out or “stress overload” as some people call it. This is where the defense of your body is weakened and you become susceptible to other health issues.
How Stress Affects Health
As stated before, stressful situations and the way the human body responds to them is completely natural. Things start becoming really unnatural when that same stressor keeps stressing the body out over and over again over a longer period of time.
Your adrenal glands and other bodily functions cannot keep up and at some point, you become completely and totally exhausted. Unable to fight, unable to flight.
This is where Adrenal Fatigue kicks in.
Chronic stress can cause AF and it can also cause a whole host of health issues that can negatively affect you. So how do you deal with it?
How To Combat Stress
Figure out what’s causing your stress. Is it work? Is it the way you react to certain stimuli (eg: someone cuts you off in their car)? Is it a troubled relationship?
After you have identified your stressor, now try to figure out ways to mitigate the stress. For example:
- Start looking for a new job
- Take a deep breath and don’t react when someone cuts you off in traffic
- Start looking for ways to get out of the abusive relationship you’re currently in.
A great trick that psychologists tell their patients is to picture your life without the stress. What would your life be like if the stress event wasn’t there?
What would life be like if you actually LIKED your job?
What would like be like if the little things in life didn’t get to you?
Try to picture this lifestyle on a daily basis. You will condition your body to subconsciously chase after the non-stressful life. You will start making better life choices. Your relationships will start getting better.
And maybe, just maybe you can prevent stress from negatively affecting your life and causing more issues that it’s worth.