What is stress
First, let’s explain: stress is one of the body’s reactions. “Stress is an adaptive (normal) reaction of the body to the effects of various provoking factors: a surge of emotions, overload, conflicts, physical factors, cold, heat, illness, etc.,” explains Alena Glushakova, general practitioner , Chief Physician of the South-East Cluster of Nearmedic Clinics.
In small doses, stress is beneficial: for example, exercise is also a stress factor that stimulates muscle growth and spurs metabolic processes. “Stress does not always negatively affect our life, for example, in difficult situations at work we find optimal solutions, and in case of stress during sports activities, we train organ systems in order to increase physiological endurance,” says Alena Glushakova.
But if we are constantly exposed to it, problems are inevitable. “Sometimes we do not notice how constantly we are in stressful situations: difficult stressful work, conflicts in the family, excessive physical exertion, injuries, violation of the work and rest regime,” adds Alena Glushakova. “During prolonged stress, our body experiences constant stress, which includes all body systems, cardiovascular, nervous, immune, respiratory and others.”
How stress affects health
There are several stages of stress:
Mobilization stage. This is the first reaction to stress. “Physiologically, it is manifested by an increase in heart rate, respiration, and an increase in blood pressure. At this moment, our body actively produces “stress hormones”: cortisol and its “younger brother” adrenaline, “explains Alyona Glushakova. Cortisol is considered one of the most important stress hormones. Its task is to accumulate all possible forces of the body and direct them to cope with the stress factor.
“High cortisol levels increase glucose levels, weaken the immune system, these processes are aimed at conserving energy in the body, which in turn will be aimed at combating the stress factor,” adds Alena Glushakova. – In response to an increase in glucose levels, insulin comes into play, which begins to reduce the concentration of sugar and return it back to the state of stores. These processes have a positive effect on our body only with short-term stress. With chronic stress, this circulation turns into a kind of vicious circle, in which it is important which hormone is produced more. With good work of the adrenal glands and a weak pancreas, a lot of cortisol and little insulin are produced, which leads to dramatic weight loss. ”
If there is little cortisol and a lot of insulin, on the contrary, we gain weight. “Insulin, in turn, is a powerful competitor to testosterone. In conditions of an increased level of testosterone insulin, “there is nothing left” but to wait until the insulin “calms down” and returns to normal, then the level of the “male” hormone in the blood gradually decreases, ”says Alena Glushakova.
With a low testosterone level, chronic fatigue appears, libido and motivation for action disappear, and subcutaneous fat builds up instead of muscle mass.
“Adrenaline, the“ little brother ”of cortisol, is produced in order to quickly resolve a stressful situation that has arisen. This hormone helps the body respond to stress and regulates our behavior, as if to say: “Fight or flight,” adds Alena Glushakova.
2. Stage of resistance . It occurs when the first reaction of the body is over. “At this point, the physiological state begins to stabilize, but the hormones remain at an increased level. The body maintains a level of “high alert”, says Alena Glushakova.
3. The stage of exhaustion. “It is at this stage that the body’s adaptive mechanisms, physiological and psychological resources begin to deplete,” warns Alena Glushakova. – The stage of exhaustion is manifested by the following symptoms: increased fatigue, decreased mood, depression, increased morbidity, inability to solve problems quickly and effectively, etc. rapid aging. ” “This leads to dysfunction of the female genital area (menstrual cycle, pregnancy, unproductive functions, fertility, etc.),” notes Alyona Glushakova. – Testosterone belongs to a class of male hormones called androgens, but women also have it. Moreover, this hormone has a great effect on the female body. From testosterone, in particular, in the female body estrogens are produced. Constant stress and high levels of cortisol in the body can cause menstrual irregularities due to impaired progesterone synthesis. This, in turn, leads to problems with reproductive function. ”
Stress and hormones: how to improve the situation
The most a simple and at the same time difficult recommendation from doctors on this score – reduce the amount of stress in your life.
It is clear that you most likely will not be able to get rid of an angry boss, traffic jams, financial problems and conflicts. However, you can still reduce their effect on your nervous system.
The key advice here is to learn to relax and do it regularly. Massage once every six months is good, but not very effective. But daily walks, meditations and a visit to the sauna once a week are already something. Here are some tips to help lower your stress hormone production:
Get enough sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation increases nervous tension and stimulates the production of cortisol.
Exercise regularly. Physical activity helps end stress cycles – relieving the stress you are in, for example, due to a boss scandal. Even a half hour outside after a hard day’s work will do more than trying to suppress anger or relax with alcohol.
Enjoy relaxing treatments. Anything will do: sauna, massage, acupuncture. When we are tense, the muscles of the body spasm. This also works in the opposite direction: when we relax the body, the brain also calms down. Thus, you simply turn off the “alarm” that triggers the production of stress hormones.
Meditate. Even 5 minutes of meditation in the morning or evening can help reduce anxiety and tension. Set a timer for 5-7 minutes, sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and watch your breath. Try not to concentrate on your thoughts, although at first they will distract you.
Follow these tips to help normalize the hormonal system in your body.