While many of us may start each new year fresh and motivated, others can often find it a difficult and stressful time.
Our health and wellbeing is greatly influenced by negative emotions and thoughts and this is only heightened during intense times of stress.
Suffering from stress over this time of the year is not uncommon and there are many factors that can contribute to this feeling which include:
1: Financial – we may have overspent at Christmas or during the holiday break so finances are tighter than normal.
2: Family – it’s often hard to balance the needs and wants of extended family and these times are not always as harmonious as we would like them to be.
3: Fun – for those with children, managing the 8 week school break can be hard to organise with working parents.
In our bodies we have two main stress hormones - adrenalin and cortisol. The effects that these can have if not maintained at optimal levels are quite significant.
Adrenaline is our short-term stress hormone, often known as the fight or flight hormone, which is produced when the body believes or perceives that there is “danger” ahead. It sends your blood supply away from your digestive system to your arms and legs; increases your heart rate and elevates your blood sugar levels giving you a rush of energy that you can use to run from or face that threat of “danger”.
Psychological stress can release adrenaline the same way, but instead of returning to normal levels after a short time, the adrenaline continues to send the message to our bodies that we are still in “danger”, so our thoughts keep racing, our heart keeps pumping faster than normal and our blood sugar levels remain high.
Cortisol is our long term stress hormone and when kept at its optimum level it is one of the key hormones that assists our bodies to burn fat for energy. Living at the pace we do in today’s modern world with the demands we put on ourselves, our cortisol levels are frequently elevated well above optimum level, so no matter how hard your train or how well you eat, losing weight will be a struggle as the increased cortisol is telling your body to store fat rather than burn it.
Weight gain in itself is often a cause of angst for people and is easily done round this time of the year through over indulgence from the extra celebrations and holidays that occur.
The workings of our stress hormones are clearly more convoluted and in-depth and the consequences can be far greater than what I have explained. Unfortunately there is no “quick fix” for stress and if you are serious about managing the negative effects that it can impart on your body, it’s important to really get to the bottom of what’s driving you to think and feel that way.
Through my wife, I have recently discovered the work of Dr Libby Weaver; a nutritional biochemist and holistic health expert. Her approach to health looks at the biochemical, nutritional and emotional factors behind how our body works, which is imperative to know when it comes to managing your stress. More information can be found on this topic in her many books or online via www.drlibby.com