Stress is a normal, healthy part of life. We are supposed to experience stress. In fact, we don’t function well without it. We need the ‘stress’ of waking up and starting the day to jumpstart our metabolism. We need to encounter new organisms to keep our immune system well-tuned. We need to push our muscles past their current capability in order to build stronger, bigger muscles. That, in essence, is the benefit of stress. What doesn’t break us does make us stronger – to a point.

There is a point at which the pressure surpasses our ability to rebuild and overwhelms our capacity to repair or ‘bounce back’. At this point, stress is no longer constructive, but is instead destructive. You may experience a slow-down in metabolism or weight gain, you might feel run down, tired, or even find yourself getting sick all the time. It might be harder to remember things or concentrate, and even sleep doesn’t seem to ‘refill the cup’ the way it used to. That is, if you can manage to get enough hours of sleep, but, like many of us, you are probably having a harder time falling or staying asleep at this stage.

It is well documented that prolonged periods of elevated stress can have negative impacts on health. It is well established that chronic high stress increases the risk of insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes, and contributes to elevated cholesterol and blood pressure (increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease). It is associated with higher weight or more difficult weight loss, contributes to poor cognitive function and immune function. But at the end of the day, as we all know, being stressed and overwhelmed just feels terrible!

So, how Stressed Are You?

How is your appetite? Are you able to identify hunger and satiety? Does your stomach feel ‘bottomless’?

How is your weight? Do you find that no matter what you do, the scale doesn’t budge?

How is your exercise endurance? After a moderate workout, do you feel invigorated or depleted?

How is your energy? Do you feel the overwhelming desire to crawl under your desk around 3pm?

How is your sleep? Do you find yourself dragging through the day only to lay awake for hours at night unable to wind down and fall asleep? Or maybe you are waking in the middle of the night with your mind ‘racing’ or trying to solve all the problems?

How is your ability to fight off infection? Do you find yourself catching every little cold that comes along, or do you find it difficult to shake that ‘little’ cold you had weeks ago?

What Can You Do About Too Much Stress?

Fortunately we are truly adaptable. So, if you’ve overextended yourself and pushed your stress response into the ‘red zone’, you can rebalance yourself. You can get going in the morning without an extra cup (or two) of coffee. You can get through the afternoon without an overwhelming desire for a nap, or a pastry. You can resume a healthy relationship with food where you don’t feel controlled by your sugar cravings. These things are absolutely possible, but you can’t get there haphazardly, and you won’t get there by one more spa day. You have to be very intentional about how you exercise and eat and sleep and ‘relax’ in order to restore balance to your body and your mind. You must be diligent in showing up and maybe even learning new habits – push yourself to stop pushing yourself, and give yourself the opportunity to recuperate.

When you have a resilient stress response, you can stretch yourself and you “bounce back”. If you have over-stretched yourself, unlike a rubber band, it is possible to get your springiness back. It takes attention. It takes time. And you can get there. And it is absolutely worth it.

If you would like help with your stress response, please feel free to reach out to Heather Brummer, MS, CN, LAc or one of our nutritionists at Starkel Nutrition.

Interested in learning more? Schedule an appointment with us to get support on your future journey to body and mind health.

Written by Certified Nutritionist, Heather Brummer, MS, CN, LAc