Let’s be real…. The holidays can be stressful! While enjoying fun times with friends and family, you will most likely also be busy cooking, cleaning for guests and don’t forget – shopping! This much activity can wear you down and often leave you feeling under the weather. You may even begin wondering if the Grinch stole your Holiday!
As the holiday season gets closer, it is common for your stress level to increase.
So how does stress affect your body? And how can you keep the “Grinch” from sneaking down your chimney?
We found a helpful explanation of all the ways stress can affect you from the American Institute of Stress- stress.org. Here’s an explanation of what they have found:
- Nervous System- When stressed- physically or psychologically- the body suddenly shifts its energy resources to fighting off the perceived threat. In what is known as the “fight or flight” response, the sympathetic nervous system signals the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones make the heart beat faster, raise blood pressure, change the digestive process and boost glucose levels in the bloodstream. Once the crisis passes, body systems usually return to normal.
- Musculoskeletal System- Under stress, muscles tense up. The contraction of muscles for extended periods can trigger tension headaches, migraines and various musculoskeletal conditions.
- Respiratory System- Stress can make you breathe harder and cause rapid breathing- or hyperventilation- which can bring on panic attacks in some people.
- Cardiovascular System- Acute stress- stress that is momentary, such as being stuck in traffic- causes an increase in heart rate and stronger contractions of the heart muscle. Blood vessels that direct blood to the large muscles and to the heart dilate, increasing the amount of blood pumped to these parts of the body. Repeated episodes of acute stress can cause inflammation in the coronary arteries, thought to lead to heart attack.
- Endocrine System- Adrenal glands: when the body is stressed, the brain sends signals from the hypothalamus, causing the adrenal cortex to produce cortisol and the adrenal medulla to produce epinephrine- sometimes called the “stress hormones” Liver: When cortisol and epinephrine are released, the liver produces more glucose, a blood sugar that would give you the energy for “fight or flight” in an emergency.
- Gastrointestinal System- Esophagus: Stress may prompt you to eat much more or much less than you usually do. If you eat more or different foods or increase your use of tobacco or alcohol, you may experience heartburn, or acid reflux. Stomach: your stomach can react with “butterflies” or even nausea or pain. You may vomit if the stress is severe enough. Bowels: Stress can affect digestion and which nutrients your intestines absorb. It can also affect how quickly food moves through your body. You may find that you have either diarrhea or constipation.
- Reproductive System- In men, excess amounts of cortisol, produced under stress, can affect the normal functioning of the reproductive system. Chronic stress can impair testosterone and sperm production and cause impotence. In women, stress can cause absent or irregular menstrual cycles or more-painful periods. It can also reduce sexual desire.
As you can see, stress negatively affects your body in a variety of ways. It is important to take care of yourself in order to remain healthy and relaxed so that you can continue to check off your holiday “to-do” lists! Here are some stress fighting tips that you can incorporate into your day to day life:
- Eat healthy foods (Fruits, vegetables, chicken, fish and whole grain products)
- Limit your intake of sugars, breads and pasta
- Drink lots of water – 8 glasses of 8 ounces each is great start!
- Exercise regularly- take a walk, ride a bike, go for a run, or go to a group exercise class such as yoga or kickboxing 3-5 times per week
- Focus on NOT stressing- take deep breaths, make a list of your tasks and conquer one at a time, practice relaxation techniques like meditation, calming music (or a quiet place)
- Get a massage
- Develop an enjoyable hobby such as reading or painting
- Get a good night’s rest – Sleep is so important to allow your body time to recover from all that you’ve done that day and to prepare for the day ahead. Adults should receive between 7-8 hours of sleep every night
If you still feel like you need some help getting on top of your stress, there are some additional options to help support your body through the stressful season.
Vitamin B Complex
B complex is a vitamin product that contains several different B vitamins and they have a variety of beneficial effects. This product includes folate, thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, biotin, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) and choline.
Methylcobalamin is the activated form of vitamin B12. By taking vitamin B12 it can positively influence your health in many ways such as increased energy levels, increased cognitive function, sleep regulation and improved mood. One study revealed that patients taking methylcobalamin had improved daytime alertness and concentration as well as a shortened but improved sleep in healthy persons.
Vitamins B1 and B6 have been shown to improve the glucocorticoid function of the adrenal glands and simultaneously normalizes the activity of the gland.
Vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid enhances adrenal cortex function which is where our bodies produce cortisol. Cortisol is the hormone produced when our bodies are responding to stress, and by taking vitamin B5 it helps our bodies regulate the amount of cortisol produced in the stress response process.
A high-quality B complex product is Ortho Molecular’s Methyl B-Complex and you can get it here at Collier Compounding.
Stay Calm, Cool and Collected! L-theanine is an amino acid found in green and black teas which results in relaxation and stress relief without causing excessive drowsiness like other products do. L-theanine is also used to help ease stress and improve concentration and focus. It relieves anxiety by increasing the levels of dopamine and GABA (a neurotransmitter in the brain that has calming effects) in the brain and has been known to generate creativity and cause wakeful relaxation. People often resort to consuming caffeine to help them get through busy or stressful times, and L-theanine helps moderate or regulate the effects of caffeine on the central nervous system. L-theanine also has protective effects by reducing neurotoxicity.
**Talk to your Doctor first if you are taking blood pressure medication since L-theanine lowers blood pressure.
Have you ever heard the term “sleeping like a baby” and wish it could be you? Melatonin is a hormone produced in the brain and children produce it in higher amounts than adults. This may be the reason babies can sleep so well. Melatonin is an over the counter product shown to help you fall asleep faster and reduce sleep disturbances throughout the night. Melatonin is non-addicting and won’t cause a “hangover” effect like some other sleep aids. By improving your sleep you also help improve antioxidant activity, cardiovascular health and immune system function.
Here at Collier Compounding we offer each of these products over the counter, and you can rest assured that the brands we stock are the highest quality. At Collier Compounding we are here to help in any way we can, feel free to give us a call or drop by with any questions or concerns you may have.
Now that you understand how stress affects your body and how you can avoid that Grinch called STRESS we hope that you enjoy the holiday season with family and friends. Happy Holiday from your Collier Family!
Cho HS1, Kim S, Lee SY, Park JA, Kim SJ, Chun HS. Protective effect of the green tea component, L-theanine on environmental toxins-induced neuronal cell death. Neurotoxicology. 2008 Jul;29(4):656-62. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2008.03.004. Epub 2008 Mar 20.
Article written by Lacey Condron, a pharmacy student from UAMS College of Pharmacy Northwest Campus in Fayetteville, AR.