The Signs of Stress Bod
Daily stressors are woven into the backdrop of our life so seamlessly that it’s become “normal” to feel the constant nagging… of stress. It’s subtle, but the constant exposure to the uncertainty of a pandemic, finances and high functioning careers, endless to-do lists, the pressures of parenthood and trauma can leave us feeling bloated, tired, foggy, listless and sore. These are the physical consequences of chronic stress setting in, and when you sprinkle in a busy holiday season and an out of whack routine, the consequences can be explosive on your body.
What Science Says
There are biological, scientific systems that are directly impacted by external stressors (things that are generally out of your control). Here’s what happens. It comes down to HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis dysfunction, meaning the stress response, no longer works as it should.
The area of the brain called the hypothalamus identifies stress and releases the CRH hormone. CRH then tells the pituitary gland to release another hormone called ACTH. ACTH tells the adrenal glands to make cortisol and adrenaline, also known as the ‘fight or flight’ hormones. Adrenals then tell the brain “we’ve done our job” and our brain flips off the stress response system. In THEORY.
But when we are bombarded with too many stressors at once for too long, repeatedly the system malfunctions and that cortisol production ends up staying on when it should be off.
Introducing … the Stress Bod
So that’s what’s happening internally. Externally, here’s what that HPA axis dysfunction looks like…
- We don’t feel rested after 8 hours of sleep, leaving you forgetful, impulsive and touchy with lack of focus
- We get sick often. White blood cells drop and inflammation increases so fighting infection and healing is harder.
- We turn to caffeine, sugar, salt and fat as energy booster and GI issues flare.
- We use caffeine, sugar, salt and fat as coping substances because self control goes out the window
- Our resting heart rate increases, therefore increasing risk for diabetes, heart disease and so many more chronic diseases
- We can’t run as far or as fast as we used to. Everything hurts due to tight muscles and sensitive nerves. Lack of sleep makes sufficient recovery from any kind of workout you do get in, near impossible.
- You’re not in the mood. Drops in sex hormones slams the breaks on any funny business.
If you’re nodding your head while reading this, then chances are your once college-athlete-worthy body has turned into a Stress Bod. But how do you break the cycle? There are external stressors in your life that are simply not going anywhere, like your job, social media, frequent travel, those “always on” text and email alerts…
Reduce the Stress Bod
It’s not about taking those things away. It’s about what we can add in to offset the physical overload on the internal systems so that the effects are not so deep. For example…
- “Timebox” specific items like social media and news. Take 30 minutes at lunch to catch up on the happenings of the day and that’s all.
- Outsource chores (cleaning for example).
- Establish solid boundaries (no work emails after 8pm for example)
- Automate less important decisions (for example, eat the same fuel-filled breakfast every day)
- Consider breaking toxic relationships
- Journaling for 10 minutes a day
- Breath work
To help add in more, we’ve written the HOLIDAY STRESS GUIDE, a free, printable, workbook designed to limit the additional stress. This fill-in-the-blank, go-with-you journal will provide daily prompts and movement strategies designed to bring pause, reflection, gratitude and celebration of what you have already accomplished and what you CAN accomplish. Adding in these kinds of practices to your daily habits will help not just the heart and soul but inch you closer to those weight loss goals that might just have been keeping you stuck.