healing foundations

Stress Management

Why Stress Management is Important

Stephanie Papadakis, WellTheory Health Coach

Why Is Stress Management Important?

Stress is a part of life! It has been for the extent of human history and it is important for our growth as individuals. There are two types of stress, “eustress” and “distress,” that each has its own effects on our bodies and minds. Eustress is a form of stress that we consider positive. It can feel energizing and motivate us to make positive shifts in our lives. The second type of stress, distress, is one that places pressure on us. It can often feel overwhelming or exhausting and may manifest in more uncomfortable symptoms such as racing heart, sleep deprivation, or upset stomach. As you can see, stress can be helpful, so we don’t want to rid ourselves of it completely. It plays a part in how we grow and rise to challenges. However, we do want to learn to manage stress so we can minimize negative effects on our bodies and minds.

You may already know that during a stressful event cortisol rises, which allows our bodies to focus on the task at hand. This is our “fight or flight” response, the one we are wired with that once allowed us to run from a tiger when our lives were at risk.

However, our modern life doesn’t involve many tiger encounters. This means a once life-saving hormonal response is now causing an excess of pressure on both our physical and psychological health.

What Happens When I’m Stressed?

During an acute stress response, a few important things happen that make it very important for us to be able to manage this response!

  1. Digestion slows to a near stop. Your body is utilizing all energy to prepare to run as fast as possible if necessary, and digestion moves to the back burner. An associated decrease in stomach acid can also lead to shifts in the gut bacteria. If this happens over and over, it can eventually lead to greater gut symptoms and overall gut imbalance.1
  2. Immune system spikes. In the short term your immune function increases, which can lead to an autoimmune flare if you’re struggling with autoimmune symptoms.2
  3. Your body alters the creation of sex hormones to prioritize cortisol. This can greatly affect mood, PMS symptoms, and overall vitality!3

In times of acute stress you may experience symptoms such as a racing heart, insomnia, difficulty focusing, anxiety, headaches, gut pain or irregular stools, and even chest pain!

If you remain in a period of stress for an extended time, your body’s response begins to change. You may start to notice deep fatigue, aches and pains, and changes in mood and motivation. Feeling depressed is also very common in chronic fatigue, as the body has a much harder time making and maintaining balanced hormones.

Can you see why learning to manage our stress is such an important topic?

How Do I Recognize My Stress?

When we think of stress, we usually think of mental and emotional stress — the feeling of too many things to be done, or a big life event. While these are certainly common forms of stress, stress can also come in the form of physical stress, such as illness or lack of sleep. When assessing stressors in daily life, it’s important to include these physical stressors to get a more accurate picture of where we stand on the stress continuum.

Physical symptoms are also a way to understand the load of stress our body is under. You may feel that your mental stress is under control, but if you are still experiencing flares in physical symptoms, that’s a sign that your body needs more rest than it’s currently getting.

The psychological experience of stress is also very individualized. What one person considers a stressful event may not feel at all stressful to another person. We each have our own unique capacity to handle stress. In order to manage stress effectively, you need to understand the pressure on you and your body in daily life.

Take Action

The first step of managing stress is understanding your own stressors and key signs of stress. These will be different for each individual. It’s important to remember that there are both physical and mental/emotional stressors.

When you click on the button below, you’ll examine both physical and psychological stressors in daily life to help you gain a deeper understanding of where you fall within the stress spectrum.

Stress Assessment

Take a few minutes to fill in the statements below to so that you can begin to better understand your key stressors in daily life:

“I feel stressed when...”

“I feel overwhelmed when...”

“I feel less stressed when...”

Are There Additional Ways to Measure My Stress?

Outside of our Stress Assessment, there are two additional ways you can monitor your stress:

  1. Wearables that measure heart rate variability (HRV): By utilizing products such as a Garmin smartwatch or an Oura smart ring, you can monitor your heart rate variability — helping understand how you respond to stress triggers.
  2. Hormonal testing: There are two hormones associated with stress — adrenalin and cortisol. During our intake meeting with WellTheory members, we'll create a symptom burden graph to understand your relative adrenal and blood sugar levels (cortisol is involved in regulating blood sugar). If these areas need significant attention, your WellTheory practitioner can order functional labs that will identify hormone imbalances and specific nutritional and lifestyle supports needed for optimal care. For more information on diagnostics and everything else included in our membership, click here.

How Can We Help?

Finding the support you need can be a daunting task. If you'd like guidance on identifying the right care for you, send us a message and we’ll respond via email within 48 hours.
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