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Friday, June 13, 2014

Stress, Sleep, and Exercise, Oh My!- A 3 Part Series (Part 1 of 3: Stress)

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I've been thinking a lot about this post lately. Mostly I've been avoiding writing it, because I just felt like it would bore you guys. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that I really need to write this post, for my benefit as well as yours. And as I was thinking it through in my mind I also came to the conclusion that stress is linked with two things other things that I think are very important: sleep and exercise. So I will be doing a series on these three topics! Yay! Don't worry, though. I will still be posting recipes in between. :) Oh, and please try to remember that I am definitely not a doctor nor any kind of health professional. These are just my thoughts and you may or may not choose to agree with them. 

Stress seems to be pretty common in our culture, whether it's self-inflicted (which is usually the case) or not. Originally, it is thought the stress response was used mainly during life-threatening situations. Imagine being in the jungle alone and suddenly you find yourself the prey of a lion. The natural response to this situation would be to focus solely on keeping yourself alive and completely forgetting, say, what you ate for lunch. This component in our brain, is thought to have adapted and now, every time we believe a situation to be dangerous we illicit a stress response ( This was good back in the stone age, but now… Not so much. Scientists aren't quite sure how our brains determine if a situation is dangerous or not, but, one thing is clear, the thing that once kept us alive is now making us fall apart. 

 I, myself, cause my own stress. I begin thinking about everything I have to do, everything that needs to be done, how little time I have this summer and how much time I have this summer, not being prepared for my 10k, and my stress levels are raised through the roof this year especially because I'm switching schools. Yes, that's right. I will no longer be home schooled. And it scares the crap out of me.

So, for the past couple of  weeks I've been suffering from mini anxiety attacks, stomach pains, and feeling like I'm on the verge of crying or screaming a lot of the time. According to, these are pretty common symptoms of stress. Other symptoms include, frequent headaches, difficulty breathing, increased or decreased appetite, insomnia, racing thoughts/difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, difficulty making decisions, increased frustration, social isolation, or weight gain or loss. Does this sound like you? About 20% of Americans say their stress levels are high ( Not only that, 80% of the American population say that their stress has increased or stayed the same over the past year. Only 37% of America say they're managing their stress. While this isn't too bad of a number, it's not great either.

But do we really just want to manage our stress? Of course, getting rid of stress altogether is pretty much impossible, but can't we do better than just manage it? I think we can. 

Some forms of stress are unavoidable, such as, the death of a loved one or illness or a deadline at work/school, however, others are avoidable. Well, maybe we're not able to cure stress, but we can certainly lessen its affect on us. But what are the effects of chronic stress?

Chronic stress, when not dealt with, often leads to even more serious long term problems, such as, using tobacco, food, or alcohol to relieve stress  ( "Your body's stress response is perfect in the short-term, but damaging if it goes on for weeks or years. Raised levels of coritsol for prolonged periods can damp down your immune system and decrease the number of brain cells so impairing your memory. It can also affect your blood pressure and the fats in your blood making it more likely you will have a heart attack or a stroke ("

It can also cause chronic insomnia, which most people treat with medication leading to other undesirable symptoms. (You now are probably starting to see how stress and sleep are intertwined…) Most people treat insomnia with melatonin and this is okay for a short period of time, but when used for months melatonin, which is a hormone, can throw off the body's other hormones. This can lead to dizziness, mood swings, weight gain, depression, anxiety, and a number of other problems ( 

Yet the question still remains on how to affectively treat stress. My favorite method is eating right and exercising regularly. I know, you're probably rolling your eyes, but hear me out. When I was younger, I often had trouble sleeping and until a couple months ago I still suffered from insomnia. It wasn't until I began exercising 5-6 days a week that my insomnia almost completely disappeared. Of course, I do have the occasional sleepless night (who doesn't?), but I have not suffered from it as I did before. Albeit this may not work for everyone, exercise is very important for a number of other reasons, which I will discuss in a later post.

Other treatments include meditating, elderberry syrup, massages, passionflower, limiting the use of technology, B vitamins, aromatherapy (I swear by this one), and, of course, sleep. Sleep is probably the most underrated thing you can for your body and, you've probably guessed this by now, but I will be discussing it later.

And with that I conclude this post. Hopefully you learned something or, if nothing else, at least enjoyed this post!

Alvarez, Dr. Manny. "10 Ways to Relieve Stress Naturally." Fox News. FOX News Network, 24 Dec. 2013. Web. 13 June 2014.
American Psychological Association. "Stress in America." Missing the Health Care Connection (n.d.): n. pag. American Psychological Association. Web. 13 June 14.
"The Effects of Stress on Your Body." WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 11 June 2014.
"Stress and the Brain." Stress and the Brain. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2014.
"Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance - Balance Estrogen Levels Naturally." NativeRemedies. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2014.

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