The human body is made up of around 50 trillion cells. These cells, clumped together, are basically your physical human entity. The fate and health of these cells are NOT controlled by your genes. Genes only account for a tiny percentage. Your cells are affected by the medium in which they reside – your blood!
Your brain is like the ‘chief controller’ and it controls what is put into your blood. Your brain is in the driver’s seat and it dictates what symptoms do or don’t show up in your body, both physically and emotionally.
If you wake up in the morning and you see moments of love and joy, your brain then releases beneficial hormones; dopamine, oxytocin and growth hormone. These chemicals can significantly enhance your vitality. Have you ever noticed the glow in someone’s appearance when they fall in love? People actually do glow when they are in love, have greater health and it’s scientifically validated.
However, if you wake in the morning in a state of stress and urgency; if you perceive your day to be difficult, then your body will not produce the same hormones. When you are stressed, your evolutionary body goes into fight or flight (also known as sympathetic dominance). Your body prepares itself to run from a predator and keep you alive. Your instincts just can’t discriminate between a stressful thought and a real life threat.
This stress response causes both biochemical and physiological responses:
The immediate physical symptoms that occur as a result are:
- Increased blood pressure
- Redirection of your blood flow to your extremities; away from your brain and internal organs
- Increased heart rate
- A switch to use glucose for energy production in preference to fat burning
- The increased burning of energy, causing you to feel exhausted when the stress has passed
- A decrease in melatonin resulting in an inability to sleep
Your body will also release stress hormones/chemicals (cordisone, norephinephrine and cytokines). These stress hormones are very inflammatory agents and have an effect on your physical body. They:
- Suppress the immune system
- Produce inflammation
- Down-regulate genes
- Shut down the blood vessels and the conscious brain- making us less intelligent
- Cause gut disruption
- Suppress the reproductive system
- Inhibit growth and repair
- Result in depression or anxiety
Your stress hormones are so effective in shutting down the immune system, that they are used by doctors in organ transplantation surgeries so the body will not reject the new organ.
Thankfully, our stress-response system is usually self-limiting. Our hormones quickly return to normal once the perceived threat has gone, and our systems resume their regular activities.
However, with our modern day stressful lifestyles, especially the fear driven news around the current pandemic, our stress response is constantly activated. This inhibits the functioning of our body and immune system every single day. Long term activation of our stress response and elevated cortisol levels slows down our metabolism, creates debilitating fatigue, headaches, digestive problems, sleep problems, memory impairment, burnt out adrenals…. The list of symptoms just goes on and on.
Our primitive nervous system just hasn’t yet adapted to our modern world and our body wasn’t designed to be in perpetual stress. The physical responses of fight or flight are perfect for saving us from a predator or another life-threatening situation; but usually do not serve us today. They are amazing at helping us to escape if being attacked by a lion, but are no use to us when we are just stuck in traffic, running late or predicting the future. Our thoughts are so powerful and there is scientific evidence that thoughts alone can turn on the stress response.
So what are the main causes of stress hormones? I can think of 3 significant things:
- caffeine and stimulants
- our perception of pressure and urgency
- stress, as a result of fear
No living organism can live in emergency mode for extended periods of time.
Chronic health conditions or preventative health require a complete lifestyle change. It requires you to become conscious and identify how unconscious you once were.
Breaking your thoughts and subconscious beliefs is one of the hardest things you will ever do. Like learning to play an instrument, it is something that needs hours of practice and cultivation.
You are in control of your own mind, your nervous system and health. You can make conscious choices every day to reclaim your life.
Things like mediation, gratitude, letting go, trust, acceptance, patience, self-compassion, pattern interrupting, creating a vision, pruning and priming the brain and deliberately changing your neural pathways are just some tools/techniques to help you live a life of peace; even when faced with modern day stresses.
More on these another time.