Here's What You Need to Know About Stress!

By Anna-Maria Boelskov - September 26, 2014

There are a few important, and interesting, things to know about our body’s stress response. 

From the time we have a stressful event; a thought, a realization, a physical experience etc there is a 90-second adrenalin explosion happening in your body. This is that initial response, the one that makes us wide awake, and ready to pounce… you know the look – wide open eyes, your body freeze, your insides feel like they are running 100km/hour, your hairs are standing up yet your standing completely still… Ugh, just the thought of it made my heart race.

Well, interestingly this initial adrenalin rush only lasts for 90 seconds! Quite important information here, because knowing this means that essentially you have 90 seconds to calm your state of mind, unless of curse your standing in front of a python or mammoth tiger – then just let rip – let the adrenalin give you the strength you need to run for your life. If you’re not in need of fleeing the scene then you will benefit from the following steps and you are in a much better and healthier place to cope and recover from stress:

  • The initial 1.5 minutes is pure ‘reaction’ & ‘freak out’ and there’s nothing you can do about that, apart from acknowledging what’s happened and ‘talk’ to your adrenaline, calm it down, by:
  • Taking deep breaths into your lower lungs & belly, and a good tip is to extend the exhale this will tap into your nervous system and have a calming effect, fairly quickly.
  • Tell yourself: “I’m freaking out, my body flooded with adrenalin, but In 90 seconds it can be over and I can deal with the task at hand in a calmer manner”…. Which usually means a more productive & less reactive solution with a much better outcome.
  • Often in these 90 seconds we will want to run around in circles, speak really fast and try to fix the situation immediately. So here I want to add that usually – unless it’s a physical emergency (!!!) – you’re probably best off stopping yourself in your tracks. 90 seconds is what you have to turn your stress button OFF – if you don’t it will tick over and can continue for an hour or more, so it will be OK to take the seconds at hand and just stop, breathe, and push the ‘off button’.
  • Most of our bodily functions are put on hold so things like digestive enzymes will be put on hold and your hunger signal (stomach growling) will not be working till you stop stressing. – Long-term stress will put a hold on your period, interfere with hormone production, sleep will be interrupted and is sure breeding ground for chronic illnesses…

You might find an urge to go to the toilet in the acute stage of stress – this is the body’s way of cleaning you out so you can run for you life – which is really the purpose of stress… to get you going, run to safety and rescue. Long-term stress will mess with your digestion and bowel function.

It’s pretty handy to know that you can stop this from getting worse, but don’t be discouraged if you fail the first times that you try to tap into a calmer you in those 90 seconds. When I first learned this it took me a few go’s before I learned to convince my body to trust me, but now it works. Stress can be a very important wake up call to help you address a situation that has to be dealt with, that’s why we have the flush of adrenalin to help us deal with emergencies, but these days we stress way to often over things that do not require the use of that bout of adrenalin and we are seeing the damaging effects of chronic stress at a whole other level these days such as insomnia, blood sugar problems, weight gain, poor digestive function, fertility issues, poor immune function & a rise in allergies to just mention a few.

If you think you stress a bit too much or are perhaps finding yourself with sudden health issues that you’ve never had before or have you come to accept a poor immune health or recurrent allergies that get more and more stubborn to treat, maybe you need to check in with yourself, notice the adrenalin flushes, we become pretty good at ignoring chronic stress and start to consider it normal – this is devastating for your health. Here are a few ways you can help your body cope better and support yourself if you are feeling stressed

  • Diet is a major player here. As stress hits, acute or even long term our digestive enzymes slow right down and this means we might not feel as hungry and initially we may start to loose weight. Long-term stress has the opposite effect on weight; we tend to gain weight due to the high amounts of glucose travelling around in the body from the adrenalin rushes. When a adrenalin is produced, we make ‘new’ glucose in the liver to make sure we have enough energy to deal with the situation, but in long term stress situations we don’t use the extra glucose and it gets stored as fat. So diet wise we need to be kind to our digestive system.
  • Eat small well cooked meals (slow cookers can be your best friend in times of stress)
  • Eating soups as this require less work from your digestive system to break down the meal (make your soups in a chicken or bone broth base to up the nutrients)
  • Instead of asking your body to digest fibrous vegetables make vegetable purees.  Steam and blend your vegetables and add a little organic butter to the mix, this is a better and yummier way to eat your vegetables.
  • Make sure each meal contains a protein. Pasture raised meats & eggs are best. And make sure you mix legumes & grains for optimal protein balance.
  • Include herbs and spices such as, cinnamon, chamomile, ginger, nettle & green tea
  • If you are finding that all you eat leaves you feeling like you just digested a brick – then add some apple cider vinegar or just squeeze some lemon into a glass of water before meals, this will help your digestion ‘ wake up’ and get ready for the meal ahead.
  • Yoga is a great way to tap into your breath, get your body moving and help utilise some of the excess glucose and adrenalin in your body. If yoga is not your thing, then go for a brisk walk, a swim or just do some stretches on your living room floor, you’ll be amazed by how much a little movement can do.
  • Avoid extra sugars, caffeine and other stimulants in times of stress, you’ve got plenty of internal stimulation, long term that will subside in chronic stress but that’s more due to burn out than lack of function.
  • Sitting still or meditating can be the hardest once to take up when feeling stressed. But boy is it worth a try! Here’s a link to online-guided meditation for a few minutes only.
  • Western Herbal tonics is used clinically to aid adrenal health and restore the nervous system along with bringing the body’s hormones and digestive system back to balance, this is advised if you are struggling to get a hold on your stress management – so come in for a check up if you are concerned.

Next time you face an acute stress situation and your body is acting like it’s getting ready to run away from an ancient predator – bring your mind back to the 90second window and your breath and see if you can avoid your day spiralling out of control. – Feel free to get in touch or leave a comment; I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!


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