Believe it or not, stress can be a very good thing.
When faced with a specific challenge or acute stress, your body releases a surge of hormones in a fight-or-flight response that helps you focus and perform at your best. Your brain is forced to work harder to find solutions. This can lead to new insights, understanding, and a major sense of accomplishment when the challenge is met.
So small doses of positive stress, known as ‘eustress,’ can motivate you to perform well, learn and grow. As a result, you feel courageous and hopeful.
But chronic stress is a very different matter. Chronic stress comes from long-term exposure to a stressor, whether that’s a virus, mold, an abusive or high-pressure situation, or something else.
Stress that persists is, in effect, putting your body in chronic perceived danger mode. This shows up in your body in all kinds of ways.
How can you spot the effects chronic stress has on your body? What can you do to overturn those negative effects? And how can brain retraining help with chronic stress and prevent chronic disease?
Let’s find out.
Five Ways You Might See Stress in Your Body
So stress is a normal human reaction to perceived dangers. But here’s the catch: the stress response is triggered anytime your brain—not your conscience self—decides you’re in danger.
The brain reacts by releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol on a regular basis. This can have a cascading effect on your whole body, disrupting your hormones, sleep, metabolism, immune system, and more.
Here are five ways stress shows up in your body:
1. Digestive Issues
One of the most common physical symptoms of stress is digestive issues. When you’re feeling stressed, the cortisol and adrenaline released can cause digestive problems such as nausea, diarrhea, constipation, and heartburn. Stress can also lead to eating too much or too little, further disrupting your digestion.
Headaches are another common symptom of stress. Stress-related headaches tend to be tension headaches that cause a dull ache or pressure around the forehead or temples. If you’re experiencing frequent headaches, it may be a sign that you need to reduce your stress levels.
3. Muscle Tension
Stress can cause muscle tension throughout the body, especially in the neck and shoulders. When you’re stressed, your muscles tense up as your body tries to protect itself from potential danger. This tension can lead to pain and discomfort.
4. Sleep Problems
Sleep problems and stress can feed off of each other in an endless cycle (more on cycles later). Stress can interfere with sleep patterns, making it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night. Without enough restful sleep, your body has difficulty recovering from the day’s activities and preparing for the next day’s challenges. Just knowing you’re not sleeping well can cause more stress, and the cycle continues.
Lastly, chronic stress can lead to fatigue. This is partly because of its effects on cortisol and adrenaline, which regulate energy levels in the body. If you find yourself feeling tired all the time, despite getting enough sleep at night, it could be a sign that your stress levels are forming a pattern that needs to be broken.
Taking Care Of Yourself When You See Stress in Your Body
Did you find yourself ticking off one, two, or maybe all of those boxes?
I get it. When battling chronic Lyme disease, my body showed major signs that I was in a chronic state of fight-or-flight.
Since stress is an unavoidable part of life, what we can (and need) to do is learn to manage our stress levels so they don't become overwhelming or seriously damage our physical health.
Much of stress management comes down to taking care of yourself.
Here are some simple but effective steps to start with:
- Move regularly – Regular exercise helps reduce cortisol levels in our bodies which helps us manage our stress more effectively.
- Get enough sleep – Getting enough restful sleep helps us stay energized throughout the day so we're better equipped for any stressful situations we might encounter. If “getting enough sleep” just doesn’t cut it for you right now, practice resting at night. During those sleepless nights, take time to forgive yourself for being awake and do things that feel restful. This can include reading your favorite book, watching a feel-good show, or snuggling with a pet.
- Eat healthy – Eating healthy foods helps keep our bodies strong and resilient against any potential physical symptoms of stress.
- Practice relaxation techniques – Relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation help us focus on calming our minds, which reduces overall feelings of anxiety or worry. Intentional visualization, focusing on retraining your thought patterns & physiological stress responses, are most beneficial here and is what we focus on at Vital Side.
- Talk about it – Talking about how we're feeling with family members or friends helps us process our emotions more effectively, again reducing overall feelings of stress.
How Can Brain Retraining Help When You See Stress in Your Body?
Our bodies and minds create and feed off of cycles. This is normal and helpful. It allows our bodies to focus energy on more important things.
And the mechanisms your body has come up with to cope are amazing! They are your body’s way of protecting you.
But put the two together, and you can be stuck in an endless loop of chronic stress.
- We tend to stay in this loop for a few reasons. Many of us are addicted to stress without even realizing it.
- Nervous system dysregulation is the norm. Our environment fosters a state of stress.
- We feel as though being stressed equates to being productive. That guilt can push us into more stress.
There are plenty more reasons, but the result is the same. Chronic stress.
But how can you stop the cycle?
The good news is - our bodies are made to heal! That’s where brain retraining comes in. It can help you break negative stress patterns and replace them with new, positive, healthy ones, making helpful emotional states a habit.
Imagine being nourished to face life’s challenges instead of constantly being depleted by them.
Specifically, to help those who want to break the stress habit, we’ve created a new program—Reboot.
Using a variety of techniques—including limbic retraining tools, positive psychology, visualization techniques, scent, and somatic practices—the Reboot course is designed to help you:
- Break the stress cycle
- Create the habit of feeling good
- Connect with the life of your choosing
- Avoid the adverse, chronic health effects of ongoing stress
If you have reached a point in your life where you want to stop “just surviving” and shift into a habit of feeling good, give our Reboot program a look! Coming June 30!
Stop surviving chronic stress; start thriving!