When Stress Becomes a Way of Life
But what if the days, weeks, months are full of stressors? You may be in a constant state of stress. Eventually your body begins to adapt to the stress by secreting higher levels of cortisol that don’t return to normal. Over time, even though you may think you are not stressed, your body has already made the adaptive changes and even at rest, your body may still be putting out higher levels of the stress hormones. Now, there may be a “chronic stress pattern” that becomes imbedded in your physiology.
Too much cortisol activation, over time, can lead to increased fatigue and decreased energy, high blood sugar, weight gain, muscle wasting, bone loss, impaired memory, “road rage,” anxiety and insomnia, to name just a few issues. It can also lead to high levels of systemic and brain inflammation, as the immune system is constantly activated during the stress response. You may have noticed that you experience more allergies or your allergies have gotten worse. You may even develop sensitivities to foods and to environmental chemicals such as perfumes, gasoline, and indoor pollution. You may have trouble falling or staying asleep. You may experience more mood issues such as constant anxiety or depression.
If this continues over time, the body’s output of stress hormones declines and you can become overwhelmed by the least bit of stress.
Since the adrenal glands are responsible for supporting the production of the sex hormones, it is common to see people experience more hormonal issues. PMS and infertility are some of the effects of this hormone imbalance.
You also use up your reserves of vitamins, mineral, and antioxidants. The adrenal glands thrive on vitamins such as vitamin C and B and minerals such as calcium, zinc, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. The more stressed you are, the more the reserves of these valuable nutrients are depleted.
You may start to crave sugar and grab fast food and refined carbohydrates because you are so overwhelmed. This will keep you in a constant state of nutrient depletion.
Constant stress sets up a low level of systemic inflammation – a “fire within.” The inflammatory process may become “stuck” and a vicious cycle of constant inflammation and constant depletion of hormone reserves ensues.