Stress can have a wide range of effects on the body, both physically and mentally. When you experience stress, your body goes through a series of physiological changes in response to the perceived threat or pressure. These changes are part of the body's "fight-or-flight" response, which prepares you to react to stressful situations. Acute stress is not a bad thing. It alerts us to danger and drives us to meet deadlines. But when there is an overload and becomes chronic, it becomes toxic to the body.
In response to a stressor, the body releases adrenaline and then cortisol to provide you with strength and stamina. This response is meant to be short lived. With chronic or prolonged stress, these hormones are pumped too high, too frequently. These constant levels keep us riled up emotionally and can suppress our immune system. Multiple studies have shown that stress changes the gene expression of immune cells making them more inflammatory. At some point, your adrenal glands can’t keep up with this constant demand for cortisol which can lead to mood and cognitive issues, digestive conditions and food sensitivities, food cravings, problems with sleep, lethargy and low sex drive. Pretty undesirable symptoms.
With seeing how stress can be so destructive to your body, you can’t ignore the role it plays in your body’s ability to heal. Nutrient deficiencies, food additives, caffeine and sugar inhibit our brain chemistry to adapt to stress, and this elevates the devastation to your overall health. It's important to manage stress effectively to prevent these negative effects on the body. Techniques like mindfulness, relaxation exercises, regular physical activity, maintaining a balanced diet, and seeking social support can all help to reduce stress and promote overall well-being.
Breathing techniques to reduce stress and regulate the nervous system are a part of every one of my myofunctional patients’ treatment. It is fundamental to our overall health and can’t be ignored. If you find that stress is significantly impacting your life, consider choosing one thing you can change today. Will you take time to meditate and slow your breathing? Make a healthy food choice? Take a walk? Take a break to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air for a bit? Whatever you choose to do, don’t be overwhelmed. One step at a time is how we improve. And you are worth it!