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Stress: The signals, what’s going on in your body, and how to be proactive about it

I don’t think you realize just how much stress impacts your life on any given day.

I mean, we all have those situations where we feel stressed: An upcoming deadline, managing your finances, rushing to get your kids to school or yourself to work…

… we can’t escape it. I’ll even go as far as to say that a little stress is good for you.

Stress can mean different things for different people, but in all cases if you’re not able to handle it or you have serious stress, it can lead to a variety of health problems.

Being in the know is the best and most logical thing you can do to be proactive: know what stress is and what happens in your body, know what things trigger your stress, and know what works best for you to be able to handle anything and avoid the dangers of stress.

What prompted me to write this article was my own story. Not sure if you noticed by now, but I loooovvveee my anatomy – I think the body is so incredibly amazing. I came across this TedED Video: How stress affects your body.

My suggestion: Watch it, and then come back to this… because I’m going to get a little personal here…

The Signals

So, before I go into the most common signals, let me tell you a bit of my story. There was a long period, about 4 years, where I was earning an MBA, CPA part-time while working full-time at a top Canadian Wealth Management firm. Even though I had incredible support from my boss and team, I was not managing my stress in other aspects of my life, and it sure caught up with me.

I remember two significant points during that time where my body was giving me serious signals, all of them stemming from extreme levels of stress.

The first signal: My skin broke out into hives. I was experiencing a lot of stress from a personal relationship, on top of school and work. I had always had nice skin, so this threw me especially when the tests from the doctor and dermatologist came up negative. While I was thankful for the results, I was also slightly perplexed – I just wasn’t registering that stress was the root cause. I can handle it! Well… maybe not so much…

The second signal: I had an emotional breakdown. I had a really important accounting exam…like if I didn’t get a certain grade, I’d have to do it all over again – it was the ‘make it or break it’ class, if you know what I mean… not to mention work was crazy. I was in my boss’ office talking about something work related, and he asked me something about a project, and I just broke down out of nowhere! We sat in his office, and he just listened and told me to take the week off to focus on school, and not to worry about work, and that everything would be OK #grateful #worklifebalance. That week, one of my closest friends sat with me studying and going through practice questions at our local coffee shop – It was amazing how much better I felt and how much more focused I was with that time and support.

Sidebar: Surround yourself with strong, genuine people that hold you with the highest regard, and don’t be a hero – ask for help when you need it because people aren’t mind readers #simpletruths.

So what are the 10 common signals of stress?

I certainly touched on a few, but here they are:

  • your weight fluctuates
  • you develop a skin condition
  • you’re always sick – I was always sick!
  • you develop gastrointestinal (GI) disorders
    • Fun fact: Your GI is estimated to produce as much as 90% of your serotonin (serotonin = happy feeling)
  • you find it hard to focus on tasks
  • you start losing your hair
  • you get headaches (maybe even more than usual) – I seemed to get them all the time!
  • you’re not really in the mood (low libido)
  • you’re not sleeping the greatest, maybe not at all
  • your heart rate increases, which can lead to cardiovascular diseases

I experienced all of these and then some! See how you need to listen to your body?

The Body and Stress

Stress is the body’s reaction to harmful situations – whether they’re real or perceived. When you feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs in your body that allows you to act in a way that prevents you from injury or harm. This reaction is known as “fight-or-flight,” or the stress response.

Let’s back up for a minute: Your endocrine system, which is the system that responds and handles stress, is made up of glands that produce and secrete hormones. These hormones act as chemical messengers in the body to regulate your body’s growth, metabolism, and sexual development and function. These hormones transfer information from one set of cells to another to coordinate the functions of different parts of the body.

Well, stress and anxiety affect nearly every gland in your body. Let’s take a look at them shall we?

Endocrine SystemPineal Gland: Produces melatonin, a serotonin derived hormone, which affects the sleep patterns.
Hypothalamus: Controls body temperature, hunger, important aspects of parenting and attachment behaviors, thirst, fatigue, and again sleep.
Pituitary Gland: (master gland) Helps control growth, blood pressure, certain functions of the sex organs, thyroid glands and metabolism as well as some aspects of pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, kidneys, temperature regulation and pain relief.
Thyroid gland: Controls how quickly the body uses energy, makes proteins, and controls the body’s sensitivity to other hormones.
Adrenal glands: Produce hormones that you can’t live without, including sex hormones and cortisol. Cortisol helps you respond to stress and has many other important functions.
Pancreas: A vital part of the digestive system and a critical controller of blood sugar levels.
Testes/Ovaries: Male & female reproductive glands.

So, when you encounter a perceived threat, like when a loud noise – a dog barking, for example – startles you, your hypothalamus sets off an alarm system in your body.

Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.

Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies.

Cortisol is your primary stress hormone. It increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues.

When you’re always stressed, your body can produce too much cortisol, which can lead to anxiety and depression, headaches, heart disease, memory and concentration problems, digestive issues, difficulty sleeping, and weight gain.

Why? Because it alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes. Basically it’s telling your body to only use what it absolutely needs to survive, the rest goes on standby. This complex natural alarm system also communicates with regions of your brain that control mood, motivation and fear.

Own your stress – Be Proactive!

So often, we wait until there’s something wrong before we do anything. What if we could do little things and make small changes to help manage our stress BEFORE something happens?

Here are some things you can do.

First off, take a time out. Whether it’s in the morning for a walk or workout, a weekend getaway, or a much needed vacation in the sun – anywhere where you can unplug your phone, and just be with you and nature is ideal.

Secondly, take a look at what you’re eating. Are you eating a balanced diet with lots of greens, or are you more often than not eating out or consuming food/drinks that are high in sugar and preservatives?

Thirdly, are you moving? Moving your body is a great way to prevent and reduce stress – get out for a walk, even if it’s for 10 minutes.

The next thing you may want to do: Start a journal and talk to someone, if need be. When I have lots on my mind, I make sure my journal is close by. But sometimes, I just need to talk to someone, well, really it’s more that I need someone to just listen to me without judgment or telling me what to do – family and friends are great, but sometimes I need another coach or health professional for that outside perspective.

Think about cutting toxins from your life. You’ve probably started to do this, or think about this already, but chemicals can mess with our endocrine system. It’s one reason why I use essential oils, that and the fact that there are certain oils that have helped me to reduce stress and support my immunity, sleep, digestion, and really my overall wellness. These are a few of my everyday go-to’s that I’ve been using since I started using essential oils:

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia):

This essential oil is great for winding down before bedtime, yet has balancing properties that make it just as beneficial for boosting stamina and energy.

I diffuse this with Cedarwood (at night for sleep support) or Peppermint (in the morning for energy support). I don’t think I’ve made anything yet where lavender isn’t in it (e.g. facial serum, skin moisturizer).

Lemon (Citrus limon)

Lemon is a great immune supporter as it consists of 68 percent d-limonene, a powerful antioxidant.

I put a drop in my water every morning to help cleanse my body of toxins from everything it processed while I was sleeping.

Peppermint (Mentha piperita)

This is one of the most versatile oils in the world. It helps soothe the gut, supporting digestion.

I like to use Peppermint Vitality in my baking or when I run out of peppermint tea leaves.

As far as detoxifying your life, peppermint may help reduce cravings and reduce your interest in sugary foods. I even add it to a blend of oils to soothe muscles after some tough workouts.

Thieves (blend)

This is the last one I’ll mention today, and it is literally Christmas in a bottle. This is a blend of oils including: Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus radiata, and Rosemary.

Fun Fact: Clove is one of the most powerful antioxidants, even more than blueberries!

I love diffusing this on its own, or making cleaning products or immunity support rollers (thieves + your favourite carrier oil = immunity roller) – I haven’t been sick yet this year 😉 and I have friends who put them on their feet and kids’ feet at night for immune support, and they say it works like a charm, especially when the seasons change.

Check out this article by Marlynn Wei, MD, JD called 6 Aromatherapy Essential Oils for Stress Relief and Sleep that includes some other great information.

It is really important that when you do start using oils, you’re using oils of the highest quality, which is one of the main reasons I use Young Living essential oils vs those in the health stores that are typically adulterated (i.e. diluted or not of therapeutic or pure grade).

Next week, we’ll look at the other different body systems…

Until next time!

Natalia

p.s. if you’re interested in learning more about essential oils, download my Getting Started with Essential Oils ebook HERE.

p.s. That being said, if you are ready to get started, let me save you some time by telling you three ways you can get started.

The first way is to join Young Living as a Retail Customer – you can get oils whenever you want at full price.

A better way is to order your very own Premium Starter Kit HERE and get a Wholesale Membership (this is how I started because it came with a diffuser of your choice, which I always wanted, 11 essential oils, including the ones mentioned above, and a whole lot more). The kit is at almost 50% off as it is PLUS you get 24% off of all other products PLUS you have the option of joining their Loyalty Program (Essential Rewards) where you can get points back and gifts at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months.

The best way is to get your Premium Starter Kit and dive right into the Loyalty Program: Essential Rewards – It’s a monthly subscription which feels like Christmas every month, but you get to choose what you want from a crazy selection of products – essential oils, health supplements, personal care, beauty, etc. Things like deodorant and toothpaste that you go to the store for, you get delivered to your house and you don’t get distracted by other stuff at the store, so you end up saving money – This happened to me all the time on my trips to Shoppers or Costco – go in for shampoo, and leave with $50 or $100 worth of stuff.

I can’t stress enough the importance of using quality oils, which I know I’m getting with Young Living and I’m here to help you every step of the way, so feel free to email me if you have any questions or anything because it’s a lot to take in!

Disclaimer:

The information contained on this website is not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician or health professional before using these products. Be extra careful when using oils on kids, and do not use on infants under 2 unless recommended or prescribed by your physician or health professional.

About the Author

Natalia EdelmannNatalia is a Certified Wellness Coach, Yin Yoga Teacher, Author, and an Independent International Distributor with Young Living. She is a #1 Best Selling Author and holds an MBA and CPA, and is now dedicated to helping people get back to healthy, clean living so that they can have the energy and mindset to live their best life.

Her passion for wellness and helping people comes through in her blog writing as well as in her signature Make it Happen coaching program geared towards people who are feeling stuck or in a rut so that they can finally get clear and live their life on purpose.

Before transitioning into her role as a Wellness Coach, Natalia worked at one of the top Canadian Wealth Management firms in Canada, acting not only as a coach and mentor to her staff, but also as acting co-chair and mentor to women enrolled in their Women’s Mentorship Program.

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