Health advice and news from Sutter Health’s Northern California experts. The latest on fitness, nutrition, menopause, disease prevention and more.
After reading all the damage that chronic stress can do to your body, it’s time to discover what you can do to protect your health.
Of course, having a stress-free life would be ideal, but who has that? Even if you can resolve major stressors like a job you dislike or a dysfunctional relationship, there would still be traffic jams, teenagers and world news as sources of tension.
The good news is that most of these “de-stressors” are really fairly easy to do. But just because they are simple doesn’t mean they can’t be profoundly effective in reversing the damage that chronic stress is doing to your body.
Probiotics are live bacteria and eating or drinking them can have a profound beneficial effect on your health. Before you say "ewww," let's look at the science and why the right bacteria is essential for our well-being.
The human gastrointestinal (GI) tract is filled with millions of microbes known as microbiota. Your microbiota is specific only to you and was started at birth when you acquired the bacteria from your mother. Over the years it continued to evolve depending upon your gender, geography, health and diet. If you took antibiotics, it probably knocked out your good intestinal microbial environment for at least a month. Some strong antibiotics affect the gut for up to four years.
After all you’ve learned in this series about the harm that chronic stress can do to your body, you’ll want to assess: Am I chronically stressed?? You may be clearly aware that you are, or it’s possible you have learned to cope with your chronic stress so well, it feels like “normal.”
Here are some ways to assess how you’re really doing. Tune into your body and check these experiences, right now, wherever you are:
In addition, your behavior and emotions may be telling you that you are over-stressed. Recognize any of these? Be ruthlessly honest – are you:
As if heart disease, foggy brain, belly fat, lack of sleep and fatigue aren’t enough – consider the fact that chronic stress can age you more quickly.
This is not just a feeling, but a physical fact revealed in a study on chronically stressed women. The women in the study were caring for disabled children (with autism, cerebral palsy and other serious, chronic conditions) and their telomeres, an accurate genetic marker for aging, were compared against a group of women whose children had no disabilities.
Deep, restful sleep is essential to our good health. But if you are continually stressed, your body constantly pulses out stress hormones. These stress hormones make it harder to fall asleep, and impair the deepest stages of sleep – Stages 3 and 4.
Stress can result in what is called “hyperarousal syndrome” – a state where your mind and body are more easily woken by sounds or by your own stressful thoughts. As we age, we are more prone to hyperarousal syndrome. Think of a baby or child who can sleep through anything – even being carried from the car into the house. Teenagers can also sleep very deeply, though they have stress in their lives. Their bodies are not as subject to hyperarousal syndrome. As adults, we are.