We all have it. It varies in its degree, depending on the situation.
In nature, a Gazelle experiences a high level of stress when a Lion is on the prowl. Once the Lion starts the chase, the Gazelle demonstrates an incredible burst of speed that creates distance between it and the Lion. Once the Gazelle is at a safe distance and the Lion is no longer pursuing, the Gazelle stops, recovers and is back to the daily routine of eating grass, going on with life as usual.
Now, as humans, we experience these high levels of stress that can last a whole day, multiple days…even YEARS….
Here is a quick description of what happens to our bodies when high levels of stress are experienced for long periods of time:
* The adrenal glands release adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol which increase your heart beat and send blood rushing to the areas that need it for the FIGHT or FLIGHT.
* When the fear or the stressor is gone, the adrenal glands should tell all systems to go back to normal. If the levels are not returned to normal, or if the stressor doesn’t go away, the response to the stress will continue.
PROLONGED STRESS MAY HAVE THESE EFFECTS:
- Impaired cognition
- Decreased thyroid function
- Accumulation of abdominal fat
- Prolonged healing times
- Prolonged release of Adrenaline
IF LEFT UNTREATED…
Heart Problems- Over the long term, people who react more to stress have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. The characteristics that are at high risk are those that are impatient, hostile, highly competitive, move and talk rapidly. Hostility is marked as the most significant. Then there is diet and the stress response of comfort foods that generally include salt and fat.
Affects Insulin Sensitivity- Epinephrine impairs tissue sensitivity to insulin. See the blog on Migraines and diet for more information regarding this (BLOG link).
High Blood Pressure- Hypertension increases your risk of stroke, heart and kidney failure as well as heart attack. Blood pressure increases with stress and long-term increase of blood pressure can create a permanent effect.
Increased risk of infection- Under stress, the immune system is suppressed thus making one more vulnerable to infections. Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis may be exacerbated by stress, especially if it is chronic stress. Being stressed decreases the rate of recovery from illnesses as well.
Infertility- Stress is not typically correlated with infertility, but the 2 can go hand in hand. Most couples are able to become pregnant on holiday or while on vacation as stress levels are typically lower. These times also help with the effectiveness of infertility treatments.
Pain- Neck, low back and and muscle pain is present with prolonged stress. The pain can be wide spread. It is known that migraine sufferers are highly affected by stress and their symptoms correlate with the amount of stress they have in their lives.
So how does stress relate specifically to headaches and migraines?
A RESEARCH ARTICLE FOUND:
- Research has found that two consecutive days of either high stress or low sleep were strongly predictive of headache, whereas 2 days of low stress or adequate sleep were protective. Increased headache risk was present only when the earlier day was characterized by high stress. Upwards of 80% of migraine patients identify stress as a headache precipitant
- Variable were how each individual responds to stress determined the intensity of the headache or migraine.
- The day before and the current day level of stress correlates with he headache or migraine intensity
- The day after a high stress day is predictable for a let down headache also known as the “Saturday” headache.
Look at the chart provided:
Red is the hot zone for headaches and migraines.
We all have control of how much stress we allow into our lives and how we respond to it.
THIS IS VERY EMPOWERING AND MAY BE THE BIGGEST LIFESTYLE CHANGE THAT YOU CAN MAKE TO DECREASE THE IMPACT THAT HEADACHES AND MIGRAINES HAVE ON YOUR LIFE!!!!!