We often think of stress just in the emotional sense, but stress is actually the biochemical response that we experience as a result of a specific trigger.
Triggers can be emotional, but also physical - everything from exposure to toxins such as alcohol, exercise and exertion, illness or even internal factors like the body experiencing low blood sugar. Small amounts of stress are actually good for us, they make our bodies fitter, stronger and more resilient, but the problem comes when we fall into a state of chronic stress.
Chronic stress symptoms have wide reaching effects across the body, and you maybe in stressed state without even thinking you have that much (emotional) stress in your life. Some of the tell-tale signs are;
- Poor sleep, either not being able to switch off or waking frequently in the night
- Feelings of anxiety
- Fatigue, often feeling ‘tired and wired’
- Appetite changes
- Changes to libido
- Poor focus
- Digestive issues.
It’s important when assessing if you are chronically stressed that you evaluate whether there are stress 'triggers' in your life and if you are experiencing a any number of symptoms.
Heart rate variability (HRV)
As stress is a biochemical reaction there are now other ways to test and track your stress levels. Heart rate variability (HRV) is what is used on wearable fitness trackers or phone apps to look at your stress level at any given time. HRV is the variance in time between the beats of your heart, the lower the viability the higher the rate of stress. It is normal to experience periods of stress everyday for all sorts of reasons, but if you have a tracker and it is showing a constantly high state then that could be an indication of chronic stress state.
Cortisol hormone salivary test
You can also get a cortisol hormone salivary test. Cortisol is a major stress hormone, which is also integral in your sleep/wake cycle. Taking a test to monitor your cortisol throughout a 24 hour period can give a good indication of your stress resilience, overall stress levels and if there are particular times in the day where you are being triggered into stress.
Being in a chronic stress state can not only leave you feeling burnt-out day to day but it is also a risk to your long term health - heart health, weight management and mental health.
However the important thing is not to stress about the stress!
Take some time to start to understand the route of the stress, understand the triggers where you can make changes to your lifestyle to reduce them. Where you can’t make changes to reduce the onset of stress, support the body to cope with it better. Make sure you have a balanced healthy diet, reduce alcohol and caffeine and introduce calming self care such as stress reducing breathing exercises or spending time in nature. Make sure you have enough of key nutrients that are commonly insufficient and are associated with
chronic stress by supplementing with Magnesium, Vitamin D and B vitamins.
Lastly, ashwagandha is an Ayurveda herb that has been found to work on the cortisol pathway so can be really helpful to get you through a stressful time in your life.
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