What Causes Stress?
Stress is the body’s response to a trigger that we perceive as threatening. I say “perceive” because it is not necessarily the trigger itself that causes stress, it is how we perceive it that determines how deeply it will affect us.
In a room of 100 people, there are 100 different reactions that can occur to the same single trigger. For example, if a fire alarm goes off during a conference some people will jump to action to help, some people will run to safety and some people will just be annoyed, and there are multiple ranges within those reactions.
This is an empowering thought, because we do not have control over the trigger, but we do have control over how we perceive it and how we will react to it.
Other factors that cause stress on your body are poor sleep patterns, increased sugar intake, too much caffeine intake and inflammation. This is why it is so important to get a good night’s sleep, eat whole food and avoid refined or processed foods, take it easy with your coffee intake and reduce sources of inflammation like alcohol, cigarettes, sugar, and food sensitivities.
What is Stress?
The stress response is rooted in our nervous systems. When a stressor is perceived, our Hypothalamus (the ruler of the endocrine system) in our brain is activated. The hypothalamus then sends a messenger molecule called CRH (Corticotropin Releasing Hormone) to our pituitary gland, which is also in the brain. Our pituitary gland will then send a messenger molecule called ACTH (Adrenocorticotropic Hormone) to our adrenal glands.
Our adrenal glands are little triangular shaped glands that perch on top of our kidneys waiting for these messenger molecules from the brain. When they receive the ACTH messenger, they release our stress hormones Cortisol, Epinephrine and Norepinephrine. These hormones change our physiology in order to deal with the stressor. They will increase our heart-rate, make us breath faster and harder, shunt our blood flow to our leg and arm muscles to run or fight and increase our energy. This is all great, unless this system is turned on all the time!
In today’s world, we are constantly exposed to stressors with work, relationships, bills, finances, traffic, deadlines, disputes, you name it! This system is on all day long, and it really takes a toll on the body. These elevated stress hormones cause sleep disturbances, increased blood sugar levels, hormonal imbalances, fatigue, digestive issues, cardiovascular disease, and more.