What is this self-destruct button? Well, you actually have two buttons: your adrenal glands. These glands produce a stress hormone called cortisol, which in high amounts could actually kill you.
In my CPR classes, I talk about the relationship between heart attacks and stress. It's not all the fatty, greasy foods that you eat (although they do play a role in your bad health). It's not even so much all the smoking and drinking you do (even though they do play roles in your bad health). The number one thing that would kill you is stress.
Now you've heard it all before. You need to reduce your stress, meditate more, participate in yoga classes, listen to self-help CDs, etc. Blah, blah, blah! You know that stress is bad, but you're not all that concerned about it.
And that's your problem: you're NOT concerned with your level of stress.
You just live a stressful life. Stressful career, stressful family live, stressful love life, and it's like everything is just out of control for you. Nope, you just can't help being stressed out. It's apart of life! No big deal.
Well, let me tell you a little something about your stress hormone.
Cortisol is designed to get you out of dangerous situations. It's usually called a fight-or-flight hormone. If somebody is about to attack you, you either run or you fight. If the building is on fire, you get out. If you're about to be hit by a car, you jump out the way. If somebody is about to hurt a loved one, you jump in and kick the person's butt!
See, cortisol is good! That is, in SMALL amounts. The hormone isn't supposed to last but for a few seconds. After the danger is cleared, then the hormone level drops. Your heart rate and breathing goes back to normal. You skin color goes back to normal, you're not as sweaty anymore, and life is good again.
But then...well...even though IMMINENT danger is out the way, you're still living as if you're always in danger.
You watch the news in the morning, in the afternoon, and right before you go to sleep. You're hearing of everybody getting shot, killed, raped, and laid off. All of this bad news makes you edgy...and stressed. Your body is starting to produce more cortisol!
You go to work and the boss is hating on you again, your co-workers are incompetent, and upon that, you don't get paid what you're worth. You're stressed!
- Your kids aren't doing well in school. Stress!
- You and your spouse have another fight about money. Stress!
- Your car is making a funny noise. Stress!
- You get stuck in traffic. Stress!
- You're laid off. Stress!
- Money is running low. Stress!
- Always watching the news and reading the paper. Stress!
What are you doing? You're making your adrenal glands work overtime by pumping out so much cortisol. Now your body thinks you're always in the line of fire.
Too much production of cortisol would start to become destructive. This is what starts to happens with all this cortisol production:
- Your heart rate is always elevated, leading to high blood pressure
- Your immune system weakens, leading to frequent illnesses
- You start losing sleep, leading to poor cognitive function
- Your arteries are getting damaged from the high blood pressure, leading to plague build-up
- Plague build-up leads to heart attacks and strokes
- Your pancreas goes into overdrive by producing a lot of insulin, which could result in insulin resistance...or in other words, type II diabetes
- You start gaining more weight, especially around the belly
- Your body is producing more inflammation, leading to achy joints, achy neck, achy everything!
- Everything from your skin to your bones are breaking down
- Osteoporosis from all the bone break-down
Too much cortisol is catabolic, meaning that it breaks down tissue in your body if it's not kept under control.
You see, the body is a wonderful design. It could heal you of illnesses on its own...but it could also kill you on its own.
Cortisol isn't something to mess with. Once you start using so much of it, you will be on your way to the grave!
In fact, cortisol could be very destructive to athletes who are overtraining. Exercise activity produces cortisol, which is not a problem. However, too much exercising leads to a lot of production of cortisol, which means that all that exercise would actually BREAK DOWN the body rather than build it up.
So, how do you know if you're always stressed out? Well, you might think you're fine. But ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you having trouble losing weight?
- Do you sleep poorly?
- Do you have high blood pressure that can't be explained
- Are you becoming a diabetic?
- Are you always sick
- Do you lack energy
- Do you feel like you're "on edge" most of the time
- Are you having frequent heart palpitation (or do you have moments where your heart is pounding for no reason)
- Do you look much older than you are
- Do you have a weak appetite
If you think you're living a stressful life, then it's time to make some changes. Believe it or not, you DON'T have to be stressed. No matter how many stressors are in your life, you don't have to react by getting stressed.
I know, I know, easier said than done, right?
But think about the alternative for NOT reducing your stress. You should seek to be stress-free just for the sake of your health.
Remember, it's not as bad as you think it is! Relax! Even if it seems like a big deal, it's not. Nothing is more important than your life.