Stress can cause or aggravate an illness, or an illness can cause additional stress, or increase the intensity of the stress we feel. Overexposure to stress hormones may be an underlying factor in 75% to 90% of all primary care visits in North America, as well as linked to the six leading causes of death. It’s also the number one reason people eat poorly (e.g., eating on the run, skipping meals, making unhealthy choices, eating too late or too much) or abuse substances that may exacerbate stress, or increase the risk of other health concerns (e.g., sugar, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol).
Ignoring the signs of prolonged stress can lead to further complications. Stress is a biochemical event that alters your bodys chemistry. It can increase blood sugar and heart rate and suppress the body’s ability to digest food properly and clear unwanted substances, such as environmental chemicals. It can also lead to weight gain and/or inflammation that could eventually contribute to heart disease or type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, stress can eat away at your immune defense.
There are different emotional and behavioral responses to our unique stress triggers. Each stress response type has its own intensity, symptoms, and characteristics. You may feel wired or anxious even with temporary stress. And a prolonged stress response may make you feel nervous, sleepless, tense, weak, tired, or emotionally exhausted. It’s important not only to bolster your body’s resilience to stress but also to respond with healthy substitutes (e.g., deep breathing, nature walks, time with friends) for unhealthy behaviors that may be your go-to response during stress (e.g., snacking, smoking, drinking).
Get personalized stress relief! A healthy diet, regular exercise, adequate rest, and setting time aside for activities that help you relax and enjoy life are all important to building your resistance to both short and long-term stress. There are also a variety of herbal adaptogens that have been used for centuries, such as rehmannia, licorice, polygala, ginseng, and holy basil, that may help balance the natural events of the stress response so you can feel cooler, calmer and more collected for whatever life brings your way.