Stressful situations release the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone-S (DHEA-S) in the body which helps us look and feel younger, as well as boosting sex drive and improving memory. Those who produce more of the hormone are better able to deal with stress.
DHEA-S is produced by the adrenal glands in response to stressful situations. It assists brain and body function, boosts memory and mood and keeps skin supple, weight down as well as boosting libido. Like other hormones production decreases as we age.
Ultimately it is the way that we deal with stress that has the potential to allows stress to become a negative or positive force in our lives.
For example, when we find ourselves in a threatening situation, our heart beats faster and our muscles tense. This is known as the fight or flight response and our ancestors depended on this reaction for their survival – to escape enemies and predators. We still use it today but in lesser situations and the body returns to normal.
It is constant stress when the body does not return to normal that can result exhaustion and illness. In life crises such as bereavement, marriage breakdown or depression, doctors have found that the immune system becomes impaired and the
body manufactures large quantities of stress chemicals particularly corisol. At the same the activity of “natural killer” (NK) cells, which circulate in the blood ready to attack foreign bodies and mutant cells are supressed.
These are some of the symptoms of long-term stress:
* Fast and shallow breathing
* A racing heart which can led to chest pains, tingling, palpitations and asthma
* A dry mouth
* Muscle tension and pain.
* High blood pressure
* Nausea, indigestion, heartburn and ulcers.
* Sudden feelings of fear and panic
* Feelingtense, nervous or wound-up
* Difficulty getting to sleep, staying asleep, or waking
* Constant feelings tha something awful might happen
* Feeling irritable, edgy and bad-tempered
* Irregular eating patterns and often eat too much or too little
* Smoking or drinking too much, or take tranquillisers or other drugs
* Suffering from upset stomachs, diarrhoea or constipation
* Difficulty with concentration, memory or making decisions
* Constantly feeling exhausted
* Worrying that you will lose control, crack up or become ill
* Feeling apathetic – like nothing matters
* Feeling short of breath even when resting
* A feeling of tightness in the neck, chest or head
* Avoiding worrying situations
* Unable to turn off certain worrying thoughts
* A loss of interest in sex
* A sensation of palpitations or butterflies in the stomach or chest
* A lack of self-confidence
* Constant worrying that you will not be able to cope
* Frequent headaches
* Feeling thatlife is not worth living
* Feeling pessimistic about the future
* Feelingunder strain.
* Feeling obsessive about certain issues
* Constant aches and pains that worry you
* Feeling very emotional and crying easily
* Feeling physically run down
* Feeling dizzy, remote, unreal or faint.
* Can’t be bothered to see friends or take up interests
What can you do about stress?
Although there is no magic cure or pill to cure stress, there are certain lifestyle changesthat will help you better cope with it and diminish its impact on your health and life.
Look after your health by eating foods that help you to be fitter and strengthen your immune system. There are also mood-enhancing foods that trigger the release of the serotonin which has a soothing effect – these include vegetables and
wholegrains. Vegetables contain high levels of the amino-scid L-Tryptophan which is also a serotonin trigger.
Take more exercise. Go for a 15-minute run before work. Don’t eat lunch at your office desk – go and sit in the park and take a walk. Take the dog for a walk before dinner.
Do something to make you laugh.
Develop a positive attitude.
Express your feelings
Learn to delegate
Relax and take time out for yourself
If you do feel stressed breath deeply and slowly, close your eyes and go to a place where you feel good – like a palm-fringed beach, where you can listen to gentle waves lapping back and forth. Practice this several times a day and it will help you relax and refocus.
There are a number of alternative therapies that can help with stress such as massage, acupuncture, aromatherapy, flotation and Bach Flower Remedies. Read about these in more detail in Alternative Therapies